Rauner says Madigan budget “not honest,” but won’t speak V-word

SHARE Rauner says Madigan budget “not honest,” but won’t speak V-word
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Gov. Bruce Rauner |AP file photo

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Bruce Rauner on Thursday called a budget passed by the Illinois House on Wednesday “not honest” and “massively” out of balance but sidestepped questions about whether he’d veto the spending plan if it landed on his desk.

On Wednesday, the Illinois House passed a no-reforms spending bill crafted by House Speaker Michael Madigan 63-53. But even before the bill was called for a vote, Rauner aides said the governor planned to veto it.

Speaking after a business reform roundtable discussion in Springfield, Rauner called the Madigan bill “massively, massively out of balance.”

“It’s not really helpful to anything because it’s not realistic. It’s not honest. There’s no way to pay for that spending level. It’s kind of more of the same,” Rauner said, when asked whether he’d veto the bill.

While Rauner wouldn’t say on record that he’ll veto the bill, a senior administration official said there is indeed a “veto threat” on the bill.

“That is not in question,” the official said. “The governor wants to focus on a balanced budget and reforms.”Rauner said he’s relying on working groups of individual legislators to continue meeting and making progress. The Republican governor said the working groups have made good progress on property tax relief.

“We still got time. We can get there,” Rauner said, as the deadline to pass a budget winds down to just five more days.

Rauner said it will have to come down to rank and file lawmakers, namely Democrats to “stand up and do the right thing whether or not the leaders are encouraging them.”

With Chicago Public Schools students chanting outside for fair school funding, the four leaders met with Rauner in his office on Thursday afternoon for about an hour. Busloads of students traveled to the Capitol to show their support for education funding reform and for a Senate bill sponsored by State Sen. Andy Manar.

After leaving the meeting, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said the plan is to “ramp up” the working groups.

Durkin said the Democrat leaders “now share our sense of urgency of bringing this impasse to a close.”

“There’s a positive sign,” Durkin said.

Two working groups earlier this month produced recommendations for a state budget in month 11 of the impasse. The “budgeteer” working group’s recommendations included an outline for a budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 that included about $2.5 billion in cuts and $5.4 billion in new revenue, partially produced by raising the state’s personal income tax rate to 4.85 percent.

“They have re-engaged in the working groups. The sense of urgency is palpable and I’m hopeful that will propel us towards a solution before the end of session,“ Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno said Thursday.

Madigan and Illinois Senate President John Cullerton left Rauner’s office through a side door and did not answer questions.

The bill passed Wednesday includes a $700 million hike for schools, considered an “equity grant” that would help CPS and other high poverty school districts. CPS would get about $287 million, in addition to $100 million to help pay for pensions.

The plan calls for spending $13.5 billion out of the state’s general revenue fund, which comes from taxes. Without a budget, most of the state has been funded by court orders and consent decrees.

Early childhood programs would also get $75 million more in funding. And $4.6 billion would be spent on social service agencies. But agencies that have been kept alive by consent decrees during the impasse are not accounted for in the spending plan. House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie called the bill an “insurance policy” to make sure funds are being paid for the state’s most vulnerable.

The Illinois Senate did not take up the bill on Thursday. Madigan chose to put the entire budget in one bill, which will force Rauner to act. If Rauner vetoes the bill, it could mean schools won’t get funding to open on time this fall.

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