Rauner: New budget needed soon to keep essential services running
SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Bruce Rauner said recently that essential state services would soon start shutting down unless the impasse with the Assembly over a budget is resolved.
Rauner delivered his remarks as the keynote speaker at the annual Springfield Chamber of Commerce Small Business Awards Lunch. Rauner also spoke to reporters after the event.
“There’s a risk our schools don’t open, there’s a risk our essential government services aren’t provided, there’s a risk road construction has to come to a halt -- that essential human services, health care services are shut down,” Rauner said.
The state is billions in debt and approaching its second fiscal year without a budget agreement.
Rauner has said he will agree to new revenue discussions if the Democratic majority in the Assembly agrees to Rauner's “pro-business agenda," which includes reforms for workers' compensation, pensions and local property-tax control.
Rauner said the business climate Is terrible in Illinois, and that his proposed reforms would positively change the landscape for businesses considering a move to the state.
“If we could grow our small businesses faster and recruit more businesses to come to Illinois faster, we could balance our budget without having to raise taxes, fund our schools,” Rauner said.
Rauner said that if the Illinois economy had just grown at the national average in the past 15 years, the state wouldn’t have a deficit or unpaid bills, and possibly would have had a surplus.
Rauner praised the small-business community, citing statistics that said most Illinois residents either own a small business or work in a small business, and that two-thirds of all new jobs created every year are created by small businesses.
“We’ve got a lot of challenges in Illinois, but every problem can be overcome through economic growth,” Rauner said. “We can’t cut our way out of our challenges, we can’t tax our way out of our challenges. We need economic growth.”
The governor said he was disappointed with the General Assembly’s decision not to reconvene Wednesday, but said forcing legislators to return had been tried in the past and had proven to be a futile exercise.
“I’ve continued to urge the General Assembly to come back to Springfield and vote on very critical bills,” Rauner said, noting the body had adjourned May 31 without passing a budget.
Rauner said his administration had held money back to keep schools open and fund other critical government services, offering an additional $240 million in school funding under a system ensuring statewide equity. Rauner said the details are contained in two bills he submitted, but that have not been voted on.
“The money is there,” Rauner said. “Please come back. My strong preference is to get a grand compromise.”
Rauner said bipartisan legislative “working groups” that had been tasked with finding areas of compromise had been purposely slowed by Democratic leaders in recent weeks to create a statewide crisis and weaken the Rauner’s hand.
Rauner said that political approach is counterproductive and doesn't benefit the citizens of Illinois.
“Essential government services are on the verge of shutdown,” Rauner said. “We need action now.”
“We can’t just raise taxes and expect to solve the problem,” Rauner said. “We have to get at the structural cause of the problem, and that is a balance of power between taxpayers and the special-interest groups inside government.”
Rauner said taxpayers and businesses have lost faith in the ability for state government to operate fairly.
“We’ve lost our balance, and we haven’t been a very effective two-party state,” Rauner said. “Democracy doesn’t work really well on a one-part basis. If we go even more that way, it will be devastating to our economy and taxpayers.”