Gov. Bruce Rauner threatened Friday a further $420 million in state cuts — including cuts to training Chicago firefighters, to rides for the disabled and elderly in Cook County, and to south suburban policing — if the Legislature can’t agree to a budget by July 1.
Designed to help fill what Rauner describes as a $4 billion budget hole, the threatened cuts come on top of $400 million in proposed cuts that Rauner threatened earlier this month, and are an attempt to pressure Democrats into passing reforms that the governor says Illinois needs to be competitive.
Democrats last month approved a spending plan that’s at least $3 billion short of revenue. They want Rauner to approve new taxes, but the governor has said he won’t sign their plan without further concessions.
“Governor Rauner has compromised repeatedly, but Speaker [Michael] Madigan and the politicians he controls continue to block any real reform,” Rauner spokesman Lance Trover said. “It’s deeply troubling to see that Speaker Madigan remains committed to sacrificing the middle class in order to protect the political class.”
Released Friday afternoon, Rauner’s latest round of proposed cuts includesthe suspension of capital projects, including construction at state facilities, schools and colleges. Funding would be suspended for the Choose Chicago program for tourism promotion — which Rauner resigned as chairman of in 2013. And the Chicago Fire Department would lose funding for its training program.
Legislative earmarks for the South Suburban Major Crimes Taskforce also would be suspended.
A state payment to Pace for driving wheelchair passengers in Cook and the other collar counties would be suspended, as well as a payment to the Regional Transportation Authority for reduced fares for senior citizens, military veterans, Medicare recipients and people with disabilities on Pace, Metra and the CTA.
Business cuts include reduced funding for job training and the suspension of funding for all coal programs at the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
Illinois State Police would see cuts in its forensic equipment program, which would save the state $2 million. The department said in a statement that it would “explore efficiencies to avoid delays in processing forensic evidence.” It called the cut “necessary.”
But Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart’s spokesman Ben Breit said the cuts to the South Suburban Major Crimes Task Force, in particular, would bite. With that proposed cut, Breit said, “Governor Bruce Rauner is saying that the people of the south suburbs, who already suffer through a disproportionate degree of substandard policing and violent crime, are less worthy of justice than the rest of us.”
The governor’s office said it has already notified all State of Illinois vendors to prepare for the potential of a longer delay in receiving payments for goods and services.
In total, the cuts would affect 12 state departments and offices.
Rauner had earlier this month announced $400 million in 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.
House Republican Leader Jim Durkin on Friday said the governor “has his hands tied,” and is just giving advance notice to the public and the Legislature should the stalemate continue. He said he questions the sincerity of Democrats who continue to push for increased taxes.
Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno’s spokeswomanPatty Schuhsaid, “The administration is dealing with the hand it appears it will be dealt.”
“In the meantime we are hopeful that there will be bipartisan and bicameral discussions with the governor’s office to enact the reforms we need in Illinois and to get a truly balanced budget.”
She said the administration is doing a “thoughtful job” when deciding what to cut.
“You’re not seeing some meat-ax approach,” Schuh said.
She said Radogno met with the governor on Tuesday and discussed property tax relief.
But Senate President John Cullerton’s spokeswomanRikeesha Phelonsaid “Rauner is the one that is taking action today and any attempt to blame somebody else for these actions — when he has options that include working on a balanced approach with the General Assembly — is disingenuous.”
She added, “There’s no need to race towards a shutdown and there’s still time for the governor to work with us in a balanced and responsible way.”
Senate Democrats haven’t met with the governor since Tuesday but plan to meet with him next week, she said.