Rauner wraps up 10-city, reform-touting tour
Gov. Bruce Rauner completed a 10-city tour of Illinois recently in an effort to promote budget solutions focused on balancing revenue and spending and reforming various state systems to encourage economic growth.
“The only way to get the balanced budgets is to get the economy growing faster than our government spending," Rauner says in a video of the tour published on his YouTube channel. “We’ve got to grow more jobs. Companies want to come here; they want to be here, but we’ve got to change the system. That’s what we’re fighting to do. That’s what this battle’s about: job growth, a property tax freeze and balancing the budget."
Illinois has not had a full budget for 20 months, operating instead on stopgap budgets that do not provide full funding or long-term guidance to various state agencies and institutions. The state also has a large pile of unpaid bills, mounting debt and looming exponential growth in pension payments.
While many of the state’s lawmakers recognize the need for reform, Rauner says state Democrats are pushing for increasing taxes to preserve state services while Republicans are pushing for lowering taxes and reforming current spending practices.
Illinois residents pay some of the highest property taxes in the country, and the state’s government spending and taxation rates are compounded by its large number of local government units -- the most in the country by a wide margin. Rauner, who has not yet announced a bid for re-election, argues that further tax increases will not be enough to positively affect the state’s finances in the long term.
"If anything else, just raising taxes is just duct-taping over a problem," Rauner said at a stop in Robinson, according to a report from WTHI-TV. "That's taping over a broken system. We'll never keep balanced budgets unless we change, grow the economy faster and bring down government spending. Raising taxes won't fix it; it'll just duct-tape over the problems, and that's the message we're spreading today."
According to Rauner, the state has seen government spending increase by 66 percent over the past 17 years without any net increase in jobs.
"I've been talking to companies; they're ready to come," Rauner said. "I've got dozens of companies ready to come to Illinois. It can happen very quickly, but they've all said they want to come if we get some structural change, if we do term limits, if we do fair maps, if we do property tax freeze, if we do some government consolidation so we don't have 7,000 units of local government -- more than any other state. If we do even a chunk of those, they'll come, and we'll very quickly grow our economy."
Rauner is pushing for the General Assembly to work toward a budget agreement, but he has made reform mandatory. The Senate was working on an agreement dubbed the "grand bargain," which focused on compromising between reform and added revenue, but negotiations recently ground to a halt over how much those two factors would contribute to the end agreement.
"We're encouraging the Senate to come together; the Senate Democrats and Republicans are negotiating,” Rauner said. “They're negotiating on term limits, property tax freeze, pension reform, education funding reform; so I applaud them for that: They're working on the things that I've been advocating. They haven't got a deal yet. They haven't got the bills quite in a form where it moves the needle, but we're encouraging them. Hopefully, we'll get it done in the coming weeks."