* The Tribune is calling it the re-election budget…
Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner on Wednesday proposed a reelection-year budget that takes aim at two of his favorite targets — Chicago Public Schools and unionized state workers — while attempting to put Democrats in a political trick bag.
The $37.6 billion spending plan seeks to cut $228 million in pension help CPS won in last year’s budget battle and also to cut state health care insurance by $470 million. […]
But Rauner’s fourth budget proposal also is at odds with his campaign rhetoric. The governor has been campaigning for years on the idea of cutting property taxes, but his budget would result in school districts raising property taxes to pay for the teacher pension costs he wants to offload on them.
The governor also has slammed Democrats and Republicans who voted to hike income taxes last year, but his budget plan relies on spending nearly all the money the tax increase brings in.
While Rauner lays out a “path” to eventually lowering the income tax rate by a quarter of a percentage point, the cost savings needed to put money back in Illinois paychecks relies on cutting teacher and state worker pensions in a way that could be tied up in the courts for years or deemed unconstitutional and tossed out entirely.
The cost-shift is being slammed by Democrats and Republicans alike. I doubt it’s going anywhere, but it’s an easy way of finding a half billion dollars to make the budget look more balanced. This excerpt from a Chris Kennedy press release pretty well sums up most of the opposition…
He says he wants to cut taxes, but the truth is, he wants to further burden local property taxpayers.
Under his new plan, local governments would be required to take on the responsibility of paying the costs of teacher pensions. That will increase taxes on local property taxpayers who are already overburdened. This is fundamentally what’s wrong with our broken system.
We are over-reliant on property taxes to fund our public schools, and now Governor Rauner is putting more burden on local property taxpayers with no reforms to our broken system. Governor Rauner and political insiders in Springfield have bred cynicism across our state.
* Cullerton explained later that the governor’s proposal is out of balance by $1.5 billion because most of the statutory changes Rauner will need cannot pass…
Earlier Wednesday, Rauner met with the four legislative leaders for the first time in more than a year to review his budget proposal. Cullerton left the meeting saying he believes the budget is $1.5 billion out of balance. Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady of Bloomington said he thinks the plan is balanced even though some of the measures Rauner is calling for will prove controversial.
The budget, he said, “is running a huge deficit that proves the point.”
“Unfortunately I was right in that veto,” the governor said.
Instead, he said his budget approach this year is “decidedly different.”
“We see the budget as an opportunity to set priorities without spending beyond our means,” Rauner said. “It is a framework designed to spark a constructive dialogue on the steps we need to take to resolve the state’s financial issues.”
Yes, this fiscal year’s budget is out of balance, but it’s not as nearly in the red as the two years when the state didn’t have a budget.
* Sen. Heather Steans chairs the Senate Appropriations 1 Committee and wasn’t horrified by what she saw today…
“This is the closest the Rauner administration has ever come to a real, balanced budget, which I appreciate. That said, I have some serious concerns about his cuts to human services, Medicaid and retired pensioners to whom we have a contractual obligation. I look forward to working across the aisle to tackle Illinois’ fiscal challenges.”
Here are some of the human services cuts she’s talking about…
* The Administration proposes a 5-8% funding reduction to the following programs:
o The Autism Program
o Infant Mortality
o Addiction Prevention
o Supportive Housing Services
o Arc of Illinois
o Best Buddies
o Children’s Place
o Chicago Area Project
o Immigrant Integration Services
o Epilepsy Services
o West Side Health Authority Crisis Intervention
My own impression is that it’s not as goofy as some of his previous budget proposals. It’s not horrible. But some big assumptions will have to change before this can be brought into balance.