Lawmakers Shut Down Illinois Government Over Rauner Reforms

Published August 27, 2015

Illinois state government agencies have been partially shut down since July 1, after budget negotiations between the Democrat-controlled state legislature and Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) broke down and the fiscal year ended without an agreement.

In late June, Rauner vetoed lawmakers’ proposal to increase the state’s deficit spending by $3 billion. In turn, legislative leaders have rejected Rauner’s budget proposal, balking at proposed reforms to the state’s labor laws and its workers compensation and unemployment insurance programs.

‘Used to Business as Usual’

Bob Williams, president of State Budget Solutions, a nonpartisan public policy organization focusing on local and state budget issues, says Illinois lawmakers are refusing to compromise because they wish to maintain the status quo.

“Rauner has a positive agenda to turn the state around, but he’s dealing with legislators that aren’t used to facing up to the state’s problems,” Williams said. “They are used to business as usual with their usual agenda of refusing to balance the budget and constantly raising taxes, but Rauner is concerned that more and more businesses are leaving the state.”

Williams says Illinois lawmakers don’t know how to deal with someone trying to solve problems instead of masking them.

“The state legislature will probably just keep trying to rely on tax hikes,” Williams said. “He wants reforms of worker’s comp, a balanced budget, civil service reform, some changes in the tort law, and he wants to do something about pensions—and the legislature is just not used to dealing with these problems.”

‘A Seminal Moment’

Stephen Moore, a distinguished visiting fellow with the Project for Economic Growth at The Heritage Foundation, says Rauner’s showdown with lawmakers is a pivotal moment for Illinois taxpayers.

“I think this is a seminal moment for the State of Illinois,” Moore said.

“I think Rauner has to have a Reagan moment, [similar to] when Reagan fired the air traffic controllers,” Moore said. “Rauner needs to basically stand up to these bullies in the legislature, because if he doesn’t, I think all is lost and the financial situation will get worse.”

Warner Todd Huston ([email protected]) writes from Streamwood, Illinois.