Blagojevich casts shadow over budget proposal, ex-senator says
A former Illinois state senator says the "grand bargain" budget being debated in the General Assembly has its roots in the administration of one of Illinois' most corrupt former leaders.
"As soon as Rod Blagojevich was elected and the Chicago Democrat Party ran the table, everything has been about revenue since then and spending," former Republican State Sen. Steve Rauschenberger said during an edition of Illinois Rising recently.
"After two and a half, three years, without any kind of budget, and no real balanced budget, in my opinion, since Blagojevich stepped into the governor's mansion... .," he said. "They propose a spending plan without any kind of reduction in spending. No program reforms, no hiring freeze, nothing."
Blagojevich, a Democrat, served from 2003 to 2009 before being impeached following a corruption scandal. He is currently serving a 14-year prison term.
The budget, developed by Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) and Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) in January and in the works ever since, is all about spending, Rauschenberger said.
"Their courageous solution was to increase taxes on families and employers in the state of Illinois to bail out their mismanagement for the last five years," he said. "I was very disappointed, particularly in the new idea of a business opportunity tax, taxing payrolls. I mean, at a time when we want to encourage employment growth and the opportunity for people to lead middle-class lives and jobs, a tax on employers and payroll?"
Gov. Bruce Rauner has been pushing the Democrat-controlled General Assembly for a budget with more reforms. A review by Rauner's office of an earlier version of the "grand bargain" found that it would leave Illinois with a $4.3 billion deficit.
Lawmakers are debating a deadline for reaching the final version of the grand bargain. They were expected to take it up again on Tuesday after failing to pass it in the first week of March.
Rauschenberger, now the president of the Technology & Manufacturers Association, criticized the lack of workers’ compensation and other reforms in the proposed budget. He recently sent a notice to members of the association about the plan, Illinois Review said.
"What is apparently not included in the proposal is any explicit pension reform nor any spending reform of Medicaid, K-12 School Spending, higher education spending, or the General Assembly's spending budget," Rauschenberger wrote, according to Illinois Review. "And what we get in return is minor changes to the workmen's compensation system and a two year freeze on property taxes."
During his appearance on Illinois Rising, Rauschenberger said the situation in Springfield is a far cry from his time as a state senator, from 1993 to 2007.
"We eliminated the bed tax," he said. "We reduced some of the levees; we actually had two rebates in the nineties. When Republicans controlled one chamber and the Democrats had the other, we had a downstate governor, everybody kept an eye on each other. The cities couldn't get away with much, the suburbs couldn't get away with much, and [then Republican Gov. James] 'Jim' Edgar kind of advocated for downstate spending because he thought it had a lot to do with revitalizing downstate Illinois. So there was a balance."
That balance ended with a new governor in 2003, Rauschenberger said.