Bipartisan ‘trust’ and ‘respect’ send ‘realistic’ budget to Rauner (No, really!)
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SPRINGFIELD — With the words “trust” and “bipartisanship” uttered repeatedly on the Illinois House floor, lawmakers on Thursday quickly approved a $38.5 billion budget that Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner says he’ll sign.
The House cleared the spending plan 97-18, a day after the Illinois Senate voted to approve it resoundingly. Rauner — facing Democrat J.B. Pritzker in the November election — said he’d “be taking action quickly” to enact the budget into law. It would become the first full-year budget he’s signed since taking office.
Since 2015, Rauner had offered up a series of reform priorities from his “Turnaround Agenda.” Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan often accused the governor of “hijacking” a spending plan for his agenda.
But this year, the governor softened those demands, asking for the state not to spend more than it can bring it and imploring lawmakers to enact no new taxes. The governor, too, is campaigning on a platform about trying to roll back the 4.95 percent income tax rate that was hiked last year in order to end the impasse.
But the revenue from that hike is a big reason why the state is seeing some stability.
In a statement, Rauner noted the budget doesn’t include “much-needed debt paydown and reforms that would reduce taxes, grow our economy, create jobs and raise family incomes.”
But, he called it a “step in the right direction.”
Madigan said the budget “holds the line on taxes and spending, and creates a $15 million surplus that will be used to pay down old bills.”
And he made mention of the lack of “extreme demands” this year.
“While there is more work to be done, this compromise budget shows yet again that when extreme demands are not preconditions to negotiation, Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature can work together to move Illinois forward,” the speaker said in a statement.
Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin called the budget the “first” balanced budget in decades. He implored lawmakers to keep up the bipartisan momentum for constituents who are “starved for that type of attitude.”
“When we respect the priorities of both sides, we can accomplish great things,” Durkin, R-Western Springs said.
Not all were on board. State Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton — who Rauner narrowly defeated in the March primary — voiced her disappointment. She said the budget was decided by a “handful” of people. She called it unbalanced, despite the approval of the majority of House Republicans.
“There is a political ruling class in the state of Illinois, and they are trying their darndest to keep you in the dark and uninformed about some of the most important items that we do down here. And they’re succeeding because the folks in leadership are allowing it to happen,” Ives said.
Ives said rank-and-file members had “no voice” in the budget.
And state Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, implored Rauner to veto the budget as soon as it gets to his desk — urging him to “stand up for taxpayers” and work to cut the income tax hike enacted last year to 3 percent.
“The taxpayers of the state are getting killed,” McSweeney said.
But state Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, called the budget “a realistic plan,” with both sides not getting everything they wanted.
“That kind of bipartisanship that we have before us today can only come as a result of good faith negotiation and only comes as a result of developing and building a sense of trust between both sides of the aisle and between both sides of the Capitol,” Demmer said.
The passage echoed that of the Illinois Senate, which moved quickly on a 56-2 vote Wednesday night to pass a budget deemed a true compromise by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Many under the dome said they hadn’t seen such an easy budget vote in years.
The budget would spend nearly $38.5 billion and includes a projected $445 million in pension cost savings. It also includes an additional $350 million for evidence-based funding for school districts, which will help the state in a years long process of meeting an adequacy target.
There’s also an additional $50 million for early childhood education and an increase of 2 percent to universities and community colleges — a boost to colleges and universities still trying to get back on track after the impasse.
To address students fleeing Illinois, the budget also includes a new $25 million tuition grant which will provide additional tuition assistance.