CHICAGO — Gov. Bruce Rauner says his annual budget message this month will be similar to one he delivered last year, asking legislators to work with him on crafting a balanced spending plan or allowing him to make cuts of his own.
That’s what Rauner told the Chicago Tribune during a series of meetings with Illinois newspaper editorial boards this week. Rauner also re-emphasized his demand for “structural change” as part of budget negotiations.
“Either the General Assembly authorizes me to make cuts, not my first choice but I’ll do that, or let’s work together to do a balanced budget with cuts and, what I prefer is, a balance of cuts, some revenues and major structural change,” Rauner told the Tribune. “The real important thing is the structural change.”
The state has not had a full budget in nearly two years as a budget stalemate grinds on between Rauner and Democratic leaders in the Legislature. House Democrats say Rauner’s reform proposals should be considered separately from budget talks, and rejected his two budget options last year.
Rauner says he has compromised on some of the proposals he considers “structural change.” His agenda originally included changes to the state workers’ compensation system, union collective bargaining rights and public worker pensions. The governor also is seeking a property tax freeze, term limits for elected officials and a plan to rid much of the politics from every-decade redrawing of legislative district boundaries.
At home, the Rockford Register Star reported that Rauner sounded optimistic in a meeting with its board, citing recent bipartisan Senate negotiations over a budget compromise.
Democratic Senate President John Cullerton and Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno have been working on a sweeping package of proposals to address some of Rauner’s agenda items. The ambitious package includes a state income tax increase and a dozen other measures.
“I think a deal is more likely to happen if it’s organic, coming from the rank-and-file members of the General Assembly, and the important thing is to get a good compromise,” Rauner said. “I’ve been very clear. I mean, the good news and bad news is nobody’s wondering what I think is the right thing to do.”
Rauner also told the Tribune he has had no involvement in the state Republican Party’s critical ad campaign blaming Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan for the impasse, though he heavily subsidizes the party. He said that beyond his financial support, he “literally (doesn’t) have the time or frankly the interest” in participating in the party attacks.
He said he did not think the attacks would undercut efforts to reach a budget compromise.