Rauner’s office: Brewing budget bargain unbalanced by billions

A brewing budget bargain in Springfield would be unbalanced by billions.

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s Office of Management and Budget says the pending Senate bills would spend billions of dollars more than the state plans to take in.

The bargain includes a state income tax increase up to nearly 5 percent. In a copy obtained by the Chicago Tribune, Rauner’s staff said that — even with billions in new tax dollars funneled to Springfield — the state will still have a $4.3 billion deficit in the current fiscal year and a $2 billion hole in the next.

State Rep. David Harris, R-Arlington Heights, is the House GOP’s point person on House revenue matters. He said the Senate plan is heavy on taxing and light on spending cuts.

“When they’re looking at revenue, they have to look at the full range, not just what additional taxes you can increase if that the route they want to go,” he said Thursday. “They need to focus on what programs they can do away with. I don’t think all of that is in the Senate plan.”

Harris says the bills that he’s seen haven’t touched the appropriations process where cuts would be made.

“It’s the appropriations bills where the spending actually occurs,” he said. “To me, we’re not looking at a full picture here.”

Even with the myriad of new taxes, the report says the state is projected to bring in only $35.4 billion this year, billions less than Senators want to spend.

Recent reports by the bipartisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability show a downward trend in revenue, citing a poor business climate and lackluster income tax returns.

The expansive Senate plan also includes six new casinos, borrowing $7 billion to pay down debt, a statewide minimum wage hike to $11 in the next five years and a one-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks similar to what will take effect in Cook County in July.

To entice Republican votes, the plan touches on workers’ compensation reform but doesn’t fully address some of the larger cost drivers, like causation. Moreover, business advocates are predicting that any potential workers’ comp savings would be eaten up by higher minimum wages.

There are also bills that would give municipalities the ability to consolidate some governmental units and control other costs in return for a two-year freeze on property taxes. New government employees would see slightly less generous pension packages, as well.

In response to the report Thursday, Senate President John Cullerton’s spokesman, John Patterson, said that the goal all along has been to produce a sustainable budget.

“We filed the legislation to invite input and constructive criticism,” he said. “The proposals remain under construction. We’ll look into this and take steps as needed.”

Senate Republican Minority Leader Christine Radogno’s spokeswoman, Patty Schuh, said negotiations are ongoing.

“The Senate President and Senate Republican Leader continue to work on what’s been their goal all along: a budget than can balance with the necessary revenues and structural reforms to make it work,” she said.

The bills are scheduled to be heard in committees next week.

–Illinois News Network

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