CHRONICLE: Will Rauner pass his first balanced budget?

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Governor Bruce Rauner tweeted this week that he wants to “pass a balanced budget” and “require the budget to be truly balanced.” If he is successful, this would be the first time since his election in 2014 that he would propose and pass a balanced budget.

Rauner went longer than any Governor of any state without passing a budget: two and a half years, giving Illinois another unwanted distinction.

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.

Rauner did though have a chance to sign a balanced budget –which he did not do. In July, after a 736-day standoff between the Governor and legislators, the General Assembly overrode the Governor’s objections and passed a state budget. The $36.1 billion budget was balanced and was passed by 3/5 majorities with members of both parties.

The Governor had vetoed the bill, claiming that the budget does not make sufficient cuts. However, the budget cuts spending $2.5 billion from the current year’s spending and spends a full $1 billion less than the Governor’s own proposed budget.

Other highlights of the budget include a 5% across the board cut for state agencies, while increasing funding for K-12 education and for MAP grants, assistance for low-income individuals to go to college.

Until lawmakers passed this budget over Rauner’s objections, the unpaid bill backlog had topped $16 billion, financial ratings agencies had threatened state credit downgrades, and schools and universities faced even more massive cuts.

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