* Gov. Bruce Rauner talked about the Democrats and the state budget, via the Illinois Radio Network…
“It was nowhere near balanced. They just assumed that they were gonna win and hike taxes after the election, and so they not only didn’t appropriate enough money for many of the departments, but then they told some of the people in the departments , go ahead and ignore what we appropriated, go ahead and spend what you wanna spend, ‘cuz we’ll deal with it later, so they have not been honest about it and that’s a problem that I’ve gotta fix, and I will fix it, but it’s gonna be hard to do,” he said.
Rauner says long-term, he’ll propose an “overhaul” of the state’s tax code. He also says he’s “looking forward” to contract negotiations with AFSCME, after saying last week that state workers are overpaid.
* And on a related note, the state’s childcare program was deliberately underfunded last year and is basically out of money…
State Senator Emil Jones is trying to shore up funding for child care programs in Illinois. He wants lawmakers to approve an extra 300-million dollars for the effort.
The money would help low-income working families pay for child care services. The program which usually offers support has run out of money, which means many daycare providers are turning kids away.
* Meanwhile, the mayor of DuQuoin believes that his town’s “state fair” will survive the budget axe…
The results of November’s gubernatorial elections hadn’t been announced yet when the rumor mill started its inexorable grinding of fact to pulp. “I’m hearing that Governor Rauner is going to close the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds,” whispered one. “The state is closing the fairgrounds after the first of the year,” said another.
You want to know what I’ve heard? Nothing. Not a single confirmed, reliably-sourced utterance has come my way about the future of the fairgrounds. I’ve heard lots of unfounded pessimism, doubt, negativity, and worst-case scenarios, but nothing substantial until early last week.
That’s when I read in reliable print media that the new Director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Philip Nelson, wants to modernize both the Illinois State Fairgrounds and the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds. He further wants to develop strategies for sustainability based on increasing year-round utilization of both fairgrounds. It’s out there in print. Google it, as I did.
That’s what he said. He didn’t parse words. He didn’t obfuscate or dart around the subject. Director Nelson’s comments, if taken as his intent, indicate a positive, constructive vision for our beloved Fairgrounds that bodes well for its future. It’s music to my ears!
Yeah, well, as much as I truly love the DuQuoin State Fair, I’m not sure it’s more important than things like childcare for the working poor. Then again, it’s undeniable that the region has already been hit hard by state facility closures. This one isn’t as important as losing, say, a prison, but shutting it down will have a negative economic impact.
* The Aurora Chamber lays out the problem for its members…
The state is constrained as to what it can cut. Illinois cannot cut debt service or pension payments. After adjusting for matching revenue, it would take an estimated 20 percent in cuts to remaining spending — including education, Medicaid, public safety and transportation — to eliminate the deficit.
There’s only so much Medicaid spending that can be cut because of federal rules on “mandatory” services. But, yeah, 20 percent of GRF is about right, and that’s just for this fiscal year. And it doesn’t include things like the already existing childcare shortfall.