With lawmakers away from the Capitol for most of September, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner on Thursday sent a memo reminding them that the longer the budget stalemate continues, the worse the cuts or possible tax increase will be.
“The unfortunate truth is the longer we take to resolve our issues, the more painful the choices we must face will become. The cuts we will have to make become deeper and what we ask of taxpayers will be steeper,” Rauner warned in the letter.
The governor argued the patchwork of court rulings that has kept money flowing made clear that the Democratic budget he vetoed “was not workable” as even without a full spending plan the state continues to spend billions more than it’s taking in.
Rauner then made yet another pitch for his agenda of business-friendly, union-weakening changes that largely have been rejected by ruling Democrats, saying “the structural deficit caused by years of fiscal neglect is simply too large to close without accompanying legislative changes to mandatory spending categories.”
His plans call for toughening eligibility standards for injured employees seeking workers’ compensation benefits, limiting prevailing wages for union workers and overhauling the civil lawsuit process to cut down on big payouts. Rauner also wants to lift mandates on schools that require they provide physical education or driver’s education and to ease restrictions on what contractors they can use for things like janitorial services.
Rauner’s team included a letter supporting those efforts sent from a group representing the state’s largest school districts. But there was no mention by the group of Rauner’s other proposals to link a property tax freeze to curbing collective bargaining rights of teachers and other workers or limiting prevailing wage on school construction projects. A spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, was quick to dismiss the governor’s latest missive.
“His demands don’t save the state a dime but could cost some middle-class workers everything,” Cullerton spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon said. “He continues to hold the budget hostage to demands that will disproportionately harm the working families. Meanwhile, the bills are piling up and our bond rating is threatened.”
“What’s the value of having a leader who claims he can run government like a business when the cost of doing business is only increasing under his leadership?” Phelon added.
Rauner insists his proposals are about long-term savings for state and local governments.
“To claim structural reforms are ‘non-budget items’ is like claiming crude oil is a ‘non-automobile item’ simply because a car is primarily made of iron, aluminum, plastic, steel, rubber and glass. This, of course, disregards that gasoline literally fuels the car, a key component of what makes it work,” Rauner wrote.
The memo follows a Wednesday decision by Comptroller Leslie Munger to pay for early-intervention services for children with developmental disabilities. Providers had not been paid during the impasse and some were preparing to end services, but Munger said her attorneys decided providers should receive money under an earlier court decision.
Meanwhile, another judge ordered that the state must pay for home care services for seniors, saying the program falls under a decades-old consent decree aimed at protecting Medicare services for the poor.