Our Pledge To You


‘Frustrated’ Rauner to push for ‘grand bargain’ in budget address

Gov. Bruce Rauner on Tuesday discusses his budget address on Facebook. Sun-Times Media.

Calling himself the “most frustrated person in the state,” Gov. Bruce Rauner on Tuesday offered a glimpse into his third budget address — saying he’ll try to push along the Illinois Senate’s “grand bargain” plan.

Noting the high-pressure stakes of the plan – which includes a temporary property tax freeze, an income tax hike and changes in pension reform — Rauner spoke on Facebook Live to urge senators to “stay strong and do the right thing for the long-term for the people of Illinois.”

“We will never have balanced budgets if we don’t change our system,” the governor said. “It’s broken. It’s not working.”

The Senate plan — which came to fruition after stalled talks between Rauner and Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan — includes many of the governor’s preferred reforms, including changes to workers’ compensation, the state’s pension system and property taxes.

“My plan tomorrow in my speech is to begin to address some of the key issues myself and share some of my own personal views about taxes, about regulation, about bringing down property taxes, about properly funding our schools,” the governor said.

The governor is scheduled to deliver his address at noon before a joint session of the Legislature in Springfield.

Amid the budget impasse, Rauner has already borne the brunt of criticism ahead of his budget address — with Democratic legislators and elected officials urging him to present a balanced budget on Wednesday before the Illinois General Assembly in Springfield. A stopgap measure expired on Jan. 1 — leaving social service agencies and universities high and dry, while the state’s bill backlog creeps to $11.3 billion.

Rauner has said he’ll offer up a similar format as he did in last year’s budget address, in which he asked the General Assembly to either work with him towards a budget, or give him the authority to make big cuts. His plan had a $3.5 billion deficit. He has for years offered up examples of budgets approved before he took office — calling them wholly unbalanced and to blame for the state’s dire finances.

On Tuesday, Rauner called criticism that he’s never submitted a “balanced budget” a “common spin.”

“This spin is wrong. I have submitted budgets for two years and now I’m submitting a third budget,” Rauner said, adding that his 2015 budget with $6 billion in cuts was “ignored.”

Asked whether he’d pass a budget or “let the state go bankrupt,” the governor responded that the state should have gotten a balanced budget two years ago.

“It’s frustrating. I am the most frustrated person in the state that we haven’t been able to work with the General Assembly to get a balanced budget passed,” Rauner said. “We need to pass it now. Hopefully we can get it done very soon.”

Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed reported last week that Rauner – in his budget address — will also propose funding for two Illinois State Police classes for 200 cadets over the next two years to try to help with the violence spilling from the streets onto the expressways.

Both Democratic Comptroller Susana Mendoza and her former boss, Mayor Emanuel, have urged Rauner to present a budget per his constitutional duties.

Mendoza penned an op-ed in the Belleville News-Democrat on Tuesday, saying “anything less than a complete document with all the cuts and hikes spelled out will be more of the same abdication of responsibility that the governor has show since the day he took office.”

And speaking before the Economic Club of Chicago on Tuesday, Emanuel too urged the governor to present a balanced budget: “I want the governor to hit the re-set button by having a balanced budget that finally moves this state forward. We cannot be the last state in the union without a budget.”

Emanuel said the marathon state budget stalemate has caused a “brain drain for the first time in Illinois history.”

“That cannot be in a state or a city’s economic interest where people are not going to our universities because of the uncertainty in the state budget,” the mayor said.

Contributing: Fran Spielman