Civic Federation blasts Rauner budget, lawmakers over impasse

SHARE Civic Federation blasts Rauner budget, lawmakers over impasse

Laurence Msall is president of the Civic Federation. | Sun-Times file photo

The Civic Federation on Tuesday blasted Gov. Bruce Rauner’s recommended budget in a report that say it relies on “uncertain savings, one-time revenues” and the passage of the always in flux Illinois Senate “grand bargain” plan — while also blaming lawmakers for a “spectacular failure” for not enacting a budget.

The Civic Federation’s Institute for Illinois’ Fiscal Sustainability on Tuesday said it can’t support Rauner’s budget because it has an operating deficit of $4.6 billion and doesn’t address the state’s backlog of bills. The group also cites concern over the reduction of pension contributionsby $1.25 billion and the reduction of group insurance payments and nursing home placements caused by a new at-home care program for seniors not eligible for Medicaid.

The group also warns that “one-time resources” from the sale of the James R. Thompson Center may do nothing for next year’s budget and shouldn’t be used to help balance the budget. The governor last week said he hoped the sale would provide “long-term” help for the state — saying he supports Republican-sponsored measures to send property tax revenue from the site to Chicago Public Schools.

Rauner in February presented his proposal that presses for revenue, reforms and cuts to fill a gaping hole. But it was deemed “balanced” by the state’s budget director because it was reliant on the Senate plan passing. Within the budget proposal is a mixture of spending cuts, revenue and projected economic growth to try to reach a magic number of nearly $4.6 billion. The administration said in February it was seeking to fill the remaining $2.7 billion plus by getting legislative authority to make cuts. In terms of the state’s massive debt, state budget director Scott Harry said “the governor would be open to financing” to get the backlog down.

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In response to the report, Rauner’s administration on Tuesday blamed the state’s fiscalcrisison “decades of fiscal mismanagement.”

“Governor Rauner continues to urge legislators to pass a truly balanced budget with structural reforms that will create jobs and grow our economy across Illinois,” Rauner spokeswoman Eleni Demertzis said in a statement.

The civic watchdog group — in an 86-page report — is recommending a plan including spending caps and increased revenues. The Civic Federation says more revenue is needed to help cut the deficit.And the group also recommends borrowing to pay off the bill backlog — currently at $13 billion — but only with a balanced budget in place, a plan for “fiscal sustainability,” restriction of the bond proceeds to eliminate the backlog and the payment of debt services with revenues not needed to balance the budget.

The group also says lawmakers should reject any attempt to pass a standalone K-12 spending plan, payment of nonemergency workers or any “piecemeal” approach and instead urges the passage of a much-needed comprehensive budget.

“Springfield’s spectacularfailure to pass a budget continues to do unprecedented harm to Illinois residents, especially the elderly, students, the mentally ill and any person or business that hopes to build a future here,” Civic Federation President Laurence Msall said in a statement.

The Civic Federation also says it doesn’t support a budget proposal that would allow the backlog of unpaid bills to increase to $19.7 billion if the gap is not closed. It says that hefty backlog at the end of fiscal year 2018 would represent more than half of the estimated general fund revenues for 2019.

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