By John O’Connor
SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Bruce Rauner faces the difficult task Wednesday of outlining his third budget proposal to a Legislature that shelved his first two.
The first-term Republican is scheduled to address a joint session of the General Assembly to outline spending priorities for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
But the speech is in jeopardy of becoming academic. The state has had no annual budget blueprint since July 2015 because of a stalemate between Rauner and Democratic legislative leaders. Government continues operating largely because of court orders and intermittent appropriations by lawmakers.
Rauner has given few hints about what he plans to say. He has repeatedly insisted that he has played no part in a compromise proposal the state Senate has worked on for weeks.
In a Facebook Live appearance Tuesday, the governor suggested that will change on Wednesday.
“I will begin to address key issues myself and share my own personal views about taxes, about regulations, about bringing down property taxes, and properly funding our schools,” Rauner said.
The state’s economic position is bleak. With no action, it will have a $5.3 billion deficit when the current year ends June 30. There’s a backlog of $11 billion in overdue bills. State pension programs are $130 billion short of what they need to pay promised benefits to retired and current employees.
Democrats and many Republicans believe a tax increase is necessary — the Senate plan would increase the personal rate from 3.75 percent to 4.95 percent. Rauner doesn’t want to agree to a tax increase until his regulatory changes are met, including changes to the workers’ compensation program, a local property-tax freeze, term limits on officeholders and fairer methods for drawing legislative districts.