Rauner touts ‘non-partisan’ Election Year budget goals, Madigan aide snickers

SHARE Rauner touts ‘non-partisan’ Election Year budget goals, Madigan aide snickers

Gov. Bruce Rauner outlines the upcoming spring legislative session on Monday at the James R. Thompson Center. | Erin Brown/Sun-Times

Gov. Bruce Rauner on Monday unveiled what he called “non-partisan” goals for a full-year budget in what is undoubtedly a politically difficult year.

And he plans to outline those proposals during a legislative leaders meeting on Thursday.

But an aide to Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan — Rauner’s longtime political nemesis — isn’t buying the plan, calling one of the Republican governor’s goals a “pipe dream.”

The state went nearly three years without a budget as Rauner and Madigan remained embroiled in a political feud — and the blame game continues to be a crucial part of Rauner’s re-election campaign. With an election come November, a budget agreement will be complex.

“This is our proposal to create a better future for Illinois,” Rauner said, standing alongside Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti and state Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady. “We need to bring down our property taxes. We need to be growing more good paying jobs. We need to bring overall tax relief to people of our state and we need to restore the integrity and the ethical behavior of our government, and that’s what I’m proposing.”

Rauner, who narrowly defeated state Rep. Jeanne Ives in the March primary, said he wants to meet with the leaders on Thursday to agree on revenue and spending estimates. He said he’ll also try to encourage lawmakers to cut the income tax hike — while trying to pass pension reform. Rauner said he’ll push for a budget with no new taxes.

The state is relying on revenue from the income tax hike included in a budget package last year, and it was included in the governor’s budget proposal earlier this year. But Rauner has said he wants it cut by as much as $1 billion. That’s also something he’s strongly pushing in his re-election campaign.

The governor said he wants pension reform passed in the House before he would want a cut in the income tax rate, but that could take years. The pension bill would likely have to pass a court challenge before taking effect. Rauner, too, said he’d again push for mandate relief in order to reduce the state’s property taxes.

“Everything about these proposals is really bi-partisan or non-partisan. It’s really not about Republicans or Democrats. This is good policy. This is good government,” Rauner said when asked if his priorities this year serve as an effort to regain the support of conservatives in the state. Rauner in March defeated Ives by just 3 percentage points.

Other legislative priorities included infrastructure improvements, updating the state’s EDGE tax credit program and creating ethics and public safety changes. Rauner said he’d also push for term limits once again, but redistricting was not on his list of priorities.

“There are about 44 things I’d like to get done, but we’ve got to pick what we think we can get done this spring session. I would love to get redistricting done. That would be fantastic,” Rauner said.

Madigan spokesman Steve Brown confirmed Madigan would attend the leadership meeting.

“You can’t really react with a straight face,” Brown said of the governor’s desire to roll back the income tax after passing pension reform. “It’s all predicated by a pension law change some people say is unconstitutional. So I guess it’s a pipe dream.”

Brown, too, noted the governor didn’t list improvements to the Quincy Veterans Home as one of the things he wants to focus on: “It appears it has quickly fallen as a priority.”

The governor’s office shot back that Quincy remains a priority — while also noting the political nature of the comment.

“Members on both sides of the aisles in both chambers have already pledged full cooperation to adequately address the issue at Quincy,” spokeswoman Rachel Bold said in a statement. “We hope this doesn’t signal they’re walking away from our veterans to try to score some perceived political point.”

A spokesman for Illinois Senate President John Cullerton’s office confirmed he plans to attend the Thursday meeting. Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin and Brady are expected to attend.

Both the Illinois House and Senate are in session this week.

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