CHRONICLE: Rauner abandons policy demands with budget deadline a week away

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One week remains in the General Assembly’s regular session and leaders are optimistic that they will pass a budget on time.

Governor Bruce Rauner has abandoned his radical non-budget policy demands that held the previous years’ budget hostage, after rank and file lawmakers refused to go along with Rauner’s demands.

Rauner’s agenda was met unprecedented resistance, with protests erupting across the state and in the halls of the General Assembly. In particular, Rauner’s so-called right to work legislation was a non-starter and received zero votes in the State House. None of his agenda items were passed into law.

Ultimately, ten House Republicans joined to create a legislative supermajority to enact the budget over Rauner’s veto. The bipartisan coalition ultimately decided the Governor’s agenda – which would have pushed the state into a third consecutive year without a budget – would do further irreparable damage to the state’s finances and institutions.

Lawmakers must come up with their own plan, after a nonpartisan budget watchdog opposed Rauner’s proposed budget for the fourth year in a row. The Civic Federation President Laurence Msall said that Rauner’s proposal “does not accomplish” a plan for long-term fiscal stability.

From 2015 – 2017, Rauner went longer than any Governor of any state without passing a budget, ballooning the state’s debt to $16 billion. Lawmakers finally overrode Rauner’s veto of a budget package that would fund critical priorities as well as allow the state to start paying down those bills.

“The sobering note is really the amount of unpaid bills that the state is waking up with,” said Msall, after legislators finally passed the budget over Rauner’s opposition. Since then, the amount due in unpaid bills has dropped to $8.8 million.

The Federation’s report said Rauner’s FY 2019 budget “is precariously balanced and its modest surplus relies on aggressive assumptions. Additionally, the proposal does little to address Illinois’ massive backlog of bills.”

In May 2015, the nonpartisan fiscal watching, the Civic Federation, released a scathing report saying that Rauner’s FY 16 budget did not add up and would leave the state in worse shape. In May 2016, a Civic Federation report found Rauner’s FY 2017 budget was unbalanced by $3.5 billion. In May 2017, the Civic Federation announced it “cannot support” Rauner’s budget for FY 2018 “because it has an operating deficit of at least $4.6 billion and does not address Illinois’ massive backlog of bills.”

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