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home : news : state news free July 29, 2017

1/25/2017 1:05:00 PM
Rauner urges deal on budget crisis

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Gov. Bruce Rauner struck an  optimistic tone in his State of the State address at noon today, while acknowledging Illinois faces “significant challenges.”

llinois has not had a full-year’s state budget since summer of 2015, and Illinois has not had a balanced state budget since 2001.

Pension costs in Illinois eat up 25 percent of the state’s budget, according to a 2014 Moody’s Investors Service report.

And, one Illinois resident leaves the state every 4.6 minutes according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This figure is on net, and calculated after taking into consideration the people who are moving into the state.

The Republican’s speech comes, too, as he gears up for a 2018 re-election bid.

Rauner today focused on Illinois’ accomplishments, such as making government more efficient and increasing school funding. He also renewed his call for lawmaker term limits.

Rauner cited a bipartisan package being considered in the Senate as evidence lawmakers can work together. But that agreement is far from a done deal.

Illinois senators still grappling with the sticker shock of a tax increase weighed that and other far-reaching changes Wednesday that some leaders say are critical to ending the longest budget drought in any state since World War II.

A huge package of legislation negotiated between Senate Democrats and Republicans faces a floor vote despite wary lawmakers who declined to put up votes on the issues when they were heard in committees Tuesday.

The plan is designed to break a deadlock of nearly two years between the General Assembly’s Democratic majority and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, who at noon was set to deliver his third State of the State address. He has encouraged the Senate to try to broker a deal but has not weighed in on it.

The stalemate began shortly after Rauner took office in 2015. He won’t talk about how to tackle a multibillion-dollar deficit until Democrats consider business- and political-climate changes he says will boost the economy and restore voter confidence. Democrats have said the state should raise taxes and cut spending to get the deficit under control before addressing “non-budget” issues.

The Senate plan, worked out between Chicago Democratic Senate President John Cullerton and Minority Leader Christine Radogno of Lemont, notably would increase the personal income tax 33 percent, from 3.75 percent to 4.99 percent. It would create a 5 percent excise tax on some services such as car repair and laundry.

But it also includes legislation to answer Rauner’s concerns. They include a two-year freeze on local property taxes, cost-cutting restrictions on payouts for workers’ compensation claims, streamlined state purchasing and an avenue for voters to eliminate unnecessary local governments.

It goes so far as to take on years-old problems facing the Prairie State — how to erase a $130 billion gap in what’s needed to cover current and future retirees’ pensions and a fairer way to fund public schools, although that bill doesn’t have any explanatory language yet.

Cullerton and Radogno had hoped to strike fast, putting the Senate on record with a plan to bash the logjam early this month. When Republican senators balked, Radogno promised a vote before month’s end. Skepticism about that timetable arose Tuesday when skittish lawmakers backed off taking a stand after public committee testimony.

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