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Cullerton: ‘Win after win’ for Rauner in budget, if only he’d admit it

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton speaks to the City Club of Chicago at Maggiano's on Thursday morning. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

The state budget approved by Illinois lawmakers — and poised to take effect over Gov. Rauner’s veto — is a triumph of compromise, Senate President John Cullerton said Thursday.

Unfortunately, an unyielding Rauner can’t see it that way, Cullerton told a breakfast crowd at the City Club of Chicago.

“There are nearly $3 billion in cuts and savings in this plan,” said Cullerton, who got a standing ovation as he was introduced.

The budget “contains win after win for the Rauner administration, if it would choose to recognize those wins.”

Instead, he said, Rauner already is in campaign mode, predicting a new round of attack ads from the governor Thursday night.

Cullerton described the personal income tax increase included in the budget as “a partial reinstatement of the previous tax rates.”

Cullerton said two-and-a-half-years have been wasted, with countless victims along the way, as the state’s bills have gone unpaid and public universities have suffered.

“You can’t be the education governor and veto a balanced budget,” Cullerton said. Even with the passing of a budget, the state still has a huge backlog of unpaid bills — “and I blame the governor for that,” Cullerton said.

With the state’s credit rating hovering just above junk-bond status, Cullerton predicted “dire consequences” if the House doesn’t have enough votes to override the veto.

“It’s totally avoidable, and the governor has no other options,” Cullerton said. “He says, vote ‘no’ on this. He talks about vague, vague reforms that he’s been talking about for two-and-a-half years … ”

In a fast-paced Tuesday, Cullerton’s chamber passed spending and revenue bills — with just one Republican vote — and then quickly voted to override Rauner’s rapid veto of that package.

The Illinois House had passed the same budget package on Sunday — with 15 GOP votes — but did not override on Tuesday because not enough members were in Springfield.

An override vote is expected today when the House reconvenes at 1:30 p.m., and every Democrat will be needed.

“I hope there are no state representatives here,” Cullerton joked at the start of his speech Thursday.