By Mark Fitton
Illinois News Network
SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Bruce Rauner on Wednesday said he continues to believe a bipartisan fix for the 2015 budget hole — about $1.6 billion — is nearing.
“We’ve had various ideas on the table (and) we’ve been very close to a resolution for about five weeks. I believe a resolution is now about done,” he said.
But then Rauner chuckled and added, “Of course, I’ve believed that for a little while now.”
The governor did not directly answer a questions about a proposed 2.25 percent across-the-board budget cut reportedly floated by House Democrats, but he didn’t discount the idea, either.
“I’m hopeful that in the coming few days we’ll have a bill introduced and it’s one based on recent discussion that I’ll be supporting,” Rauner said.
Rikeesha Phelon, spokesman for Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, when asked for comment responded, “I’ve had to respond to the ‘days away’ remark for 30 days.”
Steve Brown, spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said, “The speaker continues to believe a settlement is days away.”
Asked whether an across-the-board cut might apply to school funding, the governor deferred to legislative leadership.
“I don’t want to get out in front of the General Assembly, the leaders, on what will be in or out of that particular reallocation of budget money,” Rauner said. “I’ll leave that (for) the right announcement.”
Earlier, the governor told an audience of Illinois Chamber of Commerce members the process “is sausage being made. It’s not real pretty. But it will be tasty when it’s done, I believe.”
The governor gave a version of his well-traveled remarks in support of his “Turnaround Illinois” agenda to a largely receptive audience of Chamber members Wednesday morning.
The governor asked for his audience’s help, as he usually does, but on Wednesday he focused on workers compensation reform.
Rauner said it’s one aspect he needs help with if he’s to make Illinois more of a competitor for jobs.
Rauner says his political opponents and the media misstate or understate the size of workers compensation costs in Illinois.
Rauner and other critics of the workers compensation system in Illinois say the state’s premiums are out of line compared with the rest of the nation and make it hard for businesses to compete.
Among other changes, they want codified standards for causation. In other words, claims for injury or aggravation of injury must be directly tied to employment.
Illinois doesn’t have to have the lowest cost, the governor said.
“We can even be above the average on the cost, but we can’t be one of the top, the most expensive and that’s where we are today,” Rauner said.
Todd Maisch, president and CEO of the chamber, said he understood the governor’s call for help from business leaders and he thinks chamber members will pitch in.
“Consistently, the governor stresses workers compensation in front of employers and I think that’s a strong statement.”
“I think there’s widespread support in the employers’ community,” Maisch added. “The cost is tremendous and it (workers comp reform) has to be on the table.”