Here comes the hurt? Big cuts expected in Rauner budget

Published February 20, 2015

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s first budget address might be something never quite before seen from an Illinois governor.

The politically young Republican governor is facing multi-billion-dollar state fiscal problems, heavy Democratic majorities in the Legislature and his own bold promises to end debt-ridden business as usual.

So Wednesday’s budget address ought to be a beaut.

David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University, said he expects Rauner will be bold, but added the governor also understands he won’t get everything he seeks.

“He faces an incredibly tall order and I don’t think he can fulfill it all in one speech,” Yepsen said. “I’d say this is an opening offer … an opening bid.”

Analysts and Rauner’s fellow Republicans say they expect Rauner to come out with a plan reliant on reduced spending.

Yepsen said he doesn’t see the governor going far, or perhaps anywhere, in the direction of new taxes or new revenues.

“He may mention it,” Yepsen said. “But I’d be surprised if he gets into that in a big way.”

State Rep. Joe Sosnowski, R-Rockford, said he expects “a basic outline or beginning blueprint from the governor on how we both grow out of this and basically change our spending and our revenue habits.”

Rauner is trying to reverse years of mismanagement and overspending by both Democrat and Republican governors and can’t be timid in his plans, Sosnowski said.

Rauner “hasn’t pulled any punches and I don’t expect him to do so now,” he said.

State Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, agreed.

“That’s what it’s going to take,” he said. “It’s going to be a very difficult year and a half in the state of Illinois,” Mitchell predicted, adding that he wasn’t familiar with Rauner’s exact plan.

Still, he said, legislators who are being honest with their constituents should be telling them to expect nearly every state program will be scaled back.

Democrats to whom the Illinois News Network spoke on Tuesday said they are looking for some details, as well as some respect.

State Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, said he’d like to see the governor come to the General Assembly with ideas about solving problems and propose them in a way that will make Democrats want to come to the table.

The governor needs to understand the state legislature is his autonomous equal and not middle management to be ordered about, Lang said.

“If he comes to us with us the desire to work with us, it won’t matter that the Legislature is a Democratic majority and he’s a Republican governor,” Lang said.

“If Bruce Rauner treats the legislature as his partner in government, we can accomplish great things for the people of Illinois,” Lang said. “If he chooses not to do that, we will accomplish nothing.”

Rep. Mike Smiddy, D-Hillsdale, said he’s particularly interested in how Rauner will address education.

“He’s talked several times about how he wants to fund education fully and that’s great and I agree with it wholeheartedly, but I want to first make sure it’s public education and not giving money to charter schools and, second I’d like to know how he’s going to do that with the amount of money we now have compared to before January when the (income) tax increase” expired.

Mark Fitton ([email protected]) is a reporter for the Illinois News Network, a project of the Illinois Policy Institute. An earlier version of this article first appeared at Reprinted with permission.

The photo, “Illinois State Capitol in Springfield” is copyright © 2008 Daniel Schwen, and was made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license.