Rauner unveils $420M in cuts
By Mark Fitton
Illinois News Network
SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Bruce Rauner on Friday afternoon announced another round of spending reductions — this one totaling about $420 million — should the state not have a workable budget by July 1.
Among the actions are a freeze on state construction projects other than transportation, a shutdown beginning Sept. 1 of the World Shooting Complex in Sparta, reduction in state funding for Amtrak and halt in funding for several crime prevention programs.
The cost cuts, most of which would take effect July 1, are in addition to $400 million in emergency measures the governor announced June 2.
Reaction from around the state was mixed, with Republicans largely sympathizing with the governor’s position and Democrats contending Rauner was using a budget ax rather than negotiating.
“The governor’s got to do what he’s got to do,” said state Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon.
“I’ve built my business over the last 15 years. I’ve had to make some tough decisions — and I’d rather not have made them,” McCarter said. “But I did because I knew there could be a future for my business. I had to make tough decisions today so there could be a tomorrow.”
“This is just sad,” said state Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg. “It’s another sad day in the state of Illinois.”
Phelps asked about the shooting complex, which is a big boost to the Southern Illinois economy: “A lot of these things bring in revenue for the state; why close these down now?”
Rauner and Democrats, who control the Legislature, are staring each other down after the General Assembly at the end of May passed a $36 billion spending plan that Democrats acknowledge is about $3 billion short. Republicans say it’s $4 billion light.
Democrats led by House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, both Chicago Democrats, say these are the state’s priorities, and they’ll work with the Republican governor on a plan to raise revenues.
Rauner has said, no, he won’t sign a budget that is unconstitutionally out of balance.
And he has long said he won’t agree to any new revenues without what he calls structural reform, such as a property tax freeze and changes to Illinois’ workers compensation system.
“I continue to believe there is a solution here we can all reach,” said Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook. “I know the governor keeps announcing these cuts, but what he’s demanding … has nothing to do with balancing the budget,” she said.
State Rep. Don Moffitt, R-Gilson said that while he still hopes common ground can be found, the cuts may be necessary if the state begins its new fiscal year July 1 with no budget.
“It’s my hope that these cuts don’t happen,” Moffitt said. “But being realistic, if there is no agreement, cuts have to be made.”
The governor’s office says the cuts are necessary so it can be ready to responsibly manage state government when the new fiscal year begins.
“Governor Rauner has compromised repeatedly, but Speaker Madigan and the politicians he controls continue to block any real reform,” Rauner spokesman Lance Trover said Friday.
Madigan’s spokesman was not immediately available for comment.
“There is no need to race toward a shutdown,” said Rikeesha Phelon, spokeswoman for Senate President Cullerton. “There is still time for Governor Rauner to work with a us in a balanced and reasonable way.”
Illinois News Network journalists Scott Reeder and Greg Bishop also contributed to this report.