SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Gov Bruce Rauner wants to shift pensions costs and reel in health care expenses as part of his plan to boost the economy.
Rauner is pushing structural reforms to save money and balance the state’s budget. To do so, he’ll need Democratic cooperation and in an election year that seems unlikely.
Wednesday, Rauner asked lawmakers to rollback the income tax hike in this year’s budget by changing the state’s pension system and group health expenses.
The governor says a $1 billion cut for should be the legislature’s number one priority.
“We should take the big step, and do what taxpayers have urged us to do for a decade: Enact comprehensive pension reform and give Illinois taxpayers a nearly $1 billion tax cut,” Rauner said.
To make up for lost revenue, Rauner is proposing shifting pension costs onto school districts — including Chicago Public Schools.
The Rauner budget increases education funding by $550 million but Democrats say shifting pensions costs would wipe out new education money.
“He wants to solve the pension debt problem on the back of property taxpayers,” said Sen. Daniel Biss.
Governor Rauner is proposing $100 million in capitol fund spending, $50 million to clean up the Quincy Veterans Home plagued Legionnaires’ disease and finishing a Chicago Veterans Home project. But it’s unclear where all of that money will come from.
With the new spending, Democrats and even some Republicans say the Rauner budget is not balanced.
“This is a phony budget by our governor again. This is his fourth phony budget in a row,” said Rep. David McSweeney.
“I’m not convinced that this is a balanced budget and I’m not connived he going to get any of the reform through,” said Rep. Jeanne Ives.
Also hovering over the capital Wednesday was Speaker Madigan’s handling of sexual harassment allegations made against a former aide. Madigan fired the staffer but it took him months to act.
Some have called on Madigan to step down but the women Democratic lawmakers WGN News spoke to today are standing by their Speaker.
“To me what’s important is when someone brings up an allegation it is handled seriously, promptly,” said Rep. Carole Sente.
Before Rauner’s speech the four legislative leaders met with the governor at his office. The Republicans said the governor’s proposal is balanced, while Democrats said it’s not.