Gov. Rauner is asked: Should he now propose balanced FY2017 and FY2018 budgets?

From left, Allie Bovis (Governor Rauner's press office-after she swallowed a canary; Bill Cameron, WLS-890 AM-Radio political correspondent; Tina Sfondeles, Chicago Sun-Times political reporter; all on the 16th Floor, outside the Governor's office at his press conference, April 10, 2017

From left, Allie Bovis (Governor Rauner's press office-after she swallowed a canary); Bill Cameron, WLS-890 AM-Radio political correspondent; Tina Sfondeles, Chicago Sun-Times political reporter; at the Governor's press conference, April 10, 2017

Kim Geiger, Chicago Tribune political correspondent, Governor's press conference, April 10, 2017

Kim Geiger (soon to be wed), Chicago Tribune political correspondent, Governor's press conference, April 10, 2017

Governor Rauner’s yesterday morning 11:00 am presser was held on the 16th floor of the Thompson Center in the Loop, in the guest waiting area outside his office.

Responding to the first question, the Governor said he is “Eager and open to a meeting with the Legislative Leaders [Madigan, Durkin, Cullerton and Radogno] about a budget, especially if Speaker Madigan were to indicate to him that he would like to do that.”

Governor Rauner said the Speaker has been a “very reluctant participant in those meetings in the past. And, without the Speaker’s active participation, they tend not to be productive.”

Then came the 2nd question, which the Governor didn’t quite answer but he did give his perspective on the last two years, or so, of budget discussions.

Jeff Berkowitz: It’s been argued that the last budget you proposed [FY2018, in February, 2017] had an approximately $4.6 billion hole, which was anticipated to be filled by you, the Speaker and the Senate President negotiating and figuring out how to fill that hole.

Berkowitz (cont.): Do you think it might be beneficial for you to come up with a true, balanced budget that has specific spending cuts, specific reforms and specific new revenue and say that you’ll accept and negotiate other things, but here’s one [a budget] that you would take tomorrow?

Berkowitz (cont.): Do you think as [Democratic Party Primary candidates Pritzker, Kennedy and Biss and perhaps others [Pawar] say you’ve never really come up with a [balanced] budget, as a Governor and shown leadership—that [proposing such a budget] would be good policy and also good politics,?

Gov. Rauner: Well, that’s quite a statement and question, but let me try to take it into pieces. Our first budget proposal in February of 2015 [for Fiscal 2016] was balanced. People say it wasn’t, but it was and it had, I think, about six billion in cuts. No new taxes. [Ed. note: But it anticipated about $2 billion in pension savings from pension reforms that the Supreme Court subsequently indicated would likely be unconstitutional].

Rauner (cont.): That budget proposal was ignored. It wasn’t voted on, it wasn’t really even debated. It was criticized by the majority Democrats to the press, but then they went and passed- the General Assembly passed their own $4.5 billion out of balance budget that following May, which is what we’ve been doing in Illinois for decades. It’s the reason we are in such financial duress, it’s the reason our economy is suffering and we don’t have the jobs we need.

Rauner (cont.): Since then, we’ve obviously been negotiating around getting a balanced budget and I’ve made two approaches. One is I’ve said, “Rather than ignore my cuts, give me the authority to implement my cuts so we don’t have to do a tax hike. And, without hanging me out to be criticized by the press, give me the authority [to make spending cuts] and I’ll take the budget action. They’ve not given me that authority under- I think it’s called UBRA, I don’t get the acronyms right but they could grant me the authority to make the spending cuts, they have refused to do that.

Rauner (cont.): And then I said publicly, “I’m an anti-tax guy, economic growth is the focus, but I said I will support the Democrats’ proposal for new revenue if we do some structural reforms. They have refused to do any structural reforms of any type.  So, obviously this has been going on for a while. I continue to support and applaud and commend the Senators who are trying on a bi-partisan basis to come together with a balanced budget with structural changes, and they are dealing with the right issues: term limits, pension reform, education funding reform, property tax freeze. They are dealing with the right issues. And, I want to applaud the Senate Republicans for both- I think Senator Brady and I believe Senator McCarter  have proposed specific, clear spending cuts-which is the discussion we’ve got to have—what are we going to cut, we can’t avoid the topic. We’ve got to talk about it.

Rauner (cont.): And, I applaud the Senate Republicans for proposing specific cuts. The Senate Democrats have so far refused to discuss those cuts.  I hope they will come to do that. What we need to make sure is whatever reforms that we make—that they need to be real- that they actually move the needle, so that we can grow more jobs and protect taxpayers. So far, the proposals from the Senate Democrats on reforms really don’t move the needle.  And, again, I’m not going to argue against any one bill or package and I’ve said if my proposals are unacceptable to the Democrats, they can make their own and I want to be supportive of their proposal.

Rauner (cont.): Their term limit proposal so far is purely a rule change for the Senate Leader. And, maybe, they said, in a year we might talk about a constitutional amendment for both leaders in the House and Senate. That’s a tiny step in the right direction with a maybe for next year, rather than real term limits for everybody right now. That would be a real change.

Rauner (cont.): Their property tax freeze- I think that they’ve been talking about doing a two year property tax freeze. My concern with that is that property taxes will just spike in years 3, 4, 5 and 6. It won’t really change but they can come to you and say we gave the Governor a property tax freeze, but he is being unreasonable and won’t do it.

Rauner (cont.): All I have asked is let’s have it be real…both term limits and property tax freezes are hugely popular with Democrats in the State of Illinois as well as Republicans in the State of Illinois and I have asked, let’s make those changes real…and if the Democrats won’t do a real bill, well then, let’s have them propose a real bill, but let’s not mislead the media and the people of Illlinois. When we have reforms, let’s have them be real.

The above is a transcript of the first six minutes of the presser. The last four minutes consisted of Q/A on higher education spending, social service spending, reforms and balance budgets w/o tax increases. That portion of the presser will be discussed in tomorrow’s post].      



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