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home : news : national news free July 22, 2017

2/15/2017 2:43:00 PM
Governor wants property tax freeze

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner proposed a third annual budget today that is likely to be shelved by the Legislature like his first two.

Rauner addressed a joint session of the Legislature where he outline dbudget priorities for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

There has been no state budget since July 2015. The Republican has bickered with Democrats in the Legislature over increasing taxes and cutting spending.

The state is on track to build up a $5 billion deficit by the end of the fiscal year on June 30. It has $11 billion in overdue bills and pension-program shortfalls totally $130 billion.

The Senate has been working on a plan that increases revenue and addresses some Rauner priorities.

Rauner is rejecting an increased sales tax on food and medicine and demanding a permanent property-tax freeze. 

The Republican also wants lawmakers to cap spending to force frugal state spending. The first-term governor offered a glimpse of the type of tax increases he’ll accept. For weeks he’s said he did not want to interfere with negotiations in the Senate to try to break a nearly two-year logjam that has left the state without an annual spending plan. 

The Senate plan includes a 4.99 percent income tax increase and a two-year freeze on local property taxes. Rauner says he’ll reject an income-tax hike unless the property-tax freeze is permanent. 

Rauner says Illinois lawmakers of both parties agree for the first time that the state needs regulatory change as well as reduced spending. 

He says “on this, we all now agree. And that is real progress.”

Rauner began his  budget address  by praising bipartisan Senate negotiations attempting to break a two-year deadlock on an annual spending plan. 

Rauner has insisted on business-friendly changes such as restrictions on workers’ compensation payouts as part of a budget agreement. Democrats have said he should agree with them on the way to reduce a multibillion-dollar deficit first. 

But the Senate plan addresses workers’ compensation and other Rauner priorities such as a property tax freeze. It also would raise income taxes. 

Democrats in the Illinois Legislature erupted in laughter at Gov. Bruce Rauner’s statements that he proposed a balanced budget in 2015 and that the impasse isn’t about “assigning blame.” 

The Republican is giving his annual budget address Wednesday, as lawmakers approach two years without agreement on a spending plan. 

Rauner proposed a budget in 2015 that went nowhere in the Legislature. 

Rauner says it was balanced. But Democrats argue it relied on billions in gimmicks, including counting on savings from items such as pension reform which would not have been immediately realized even if it survived a court challenge. 

Democrats also laughed loudly when Rauner said he’s not pointing fingers. Rauner frequently blames Democrats for the situation and heavily funds Illinois Republican Party attacks on lawmakers. 

Rauner said today Illinois cannot get a handle on spending until lawmakers take on “automatic spending categories” such as pensions and Medicaid. 

The governor called for a “hard cap” on spending to force frugality. 

But Rauner pointed out that more than 60 percent of the state’s general revenue is “locked up.” It is spoken for in contributions to state-employee pensions, Medicaid, health care for low-income residents and others. 

The state’s pension programs are $130 billion out of whack. Lawmakers have attempted for years to reduce pension benefits. But courts have ruled against the plans. 

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