Rauner prepares to close state museums, shutter some prisons to balance ‘phony’ Democratic budget

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Gov. Bruce Rauner, right, after a press conference on Friday. File Photo. (Rich Saal/The State Journal-Register via AP)

Gov. Bruce Rauner, right, after a press conference on Friday. File Photo. (Rich Saal/The State Journal-Register via AP)

Gov. Bruce Rauner threatened real financial pain for all Illinois — from businesses and prisons to the poor and the elderly — as he took Springfield’s stalemate over state spending to a new levelTuesday.

“House Speaker Mike Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton and their caucuses passed a budget for the 2016 fiscal year beginningJuly 1that is nearly $4 billion in the hole,” said the governor’s officeon Tuesdayas it announced planned cuts to programs in nine different state departments.

Rauner announced cuts affecting families, the poor and the elderly as well as the immediate shelving of the Illiana Expressway project and business incentives and film tax credits.

In all, the cuts will save about $400 million, the governor’s office said.

“Speaker Madigan, President Cullerton and the politicians they control refuse to act responsibly and reform state government,” Rauner spokesman Lance Trover said in a press release. “It is time they come to the table with Governor Rauner to turnaround Illinois.”

But this isn’t about governing, Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, shot back. It’s about politics. The governor’s own proposed budget was $2.2 billion out of balance.

“The governor has declared all-out war on the citizens of the state of Illinois because he’s peeved with the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate,” Lang said, adding: “It’s a path that’s carefully chosen to strike at the values and principals of what the majority of the members of the Legislature believe in.”

But Republican leaders disagree.

“The governor’s hands are tied,” said House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, R-Burr Ridge. “He’s preparing for a scenario where there’s no budget or a budget that is $4 billion out of whack.”

The steps the Rauner administration is initiating “in order to begin balancing the phony Madigan-Cullerton budget” affects the following immediately:

  • Suspension of “future incentive offers to companies for business attraction and retention” including EDGE Tax Credits, Large Business Attraction Grants, Employer Training Investment Program Incentive Grants and Prime Sites Grants. The state will defer application approvals for film tax credits and High Impact Business designations.
  • A shelving of the Illiana Expressway. The Illinois Department of Transportation will remove the project from its current multi-year plan. “It is the determination of IDOT that the project costs exceed currently available resources. The Department will begin the process of suspending all existing project contracts and procurements,” the governor’s office said.

The following are cuts the governor’s office will roll out:

  • StartingJuly 1, the Illinois Department of Transportation will “ground” state plane passenger service.
  • StartingJuly 1, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity will suspend the program that helps the poor pay for winter heat. The $170 million federal money earmarked for the program will continue.
  • The Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice will begin to identify one or two prisons that can be closed because the facilities are not filled, the governor’s office said.
  • The Illinois Department of Corrections will begin the process of closing Hardin County Work Camp, and 180 inmates will be moved.
  • The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services will audit nursing home payments to make sure they’re complying with new rates, and it will recover any money overpaid while implementing penalties for improper billing.
  • The Illinois State Police will freeze new vehicle purchases.
  • The Illinois Department on Aging will raise the requirements to qualify for the agency’s Community Care Program, which keeps seniors at home and out of nursing homes. The AARP Illinois office said 39,000 seniors will be affected.
  • The Department of Human Services will increase copays for parents using the Childcare Program and freeze intake and create waiting lists. It will also begin background checks for relatives providing child care.
  • The Department of Natural Resources will close the five state museums, and it won’t award grants to local governments to develop parks or open space.

“Unfortunately, today’s actions signal that the governor would rather slash child care, services for troubled youth and senior care rather than work on a bipartisan budget solution,” a spokeswoman for Cullerton said.

But that “over-the-top rhetoric will prevent us from coming to any resolution,” shot back a spokeswoman for Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont. “We’re hopeful there will be compromises, and the Democratic majority will be willing to work with Gov. Rauner.”

Legislators won’t be having a quiet summer.

House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, told his members they should be prepared to return to SpringfieldThursday, and Cullerton, D-Chicago, told his members they’ll return later in June.

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