CHRONICLE: Will Rauner push Illinois into a budget impasse once again?

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Observers are worrying Governor Bruce Rauner will once again push Illinois into a budget impasse as the governor and legislative leaders begin negotiating the fiscal year 2019 budget. At a recent meeting with the leaders, Rauner proposed an agenda that largely resembled his 2015 “Turnaround Agenda,” which infamously had all 44 ambitions fail to come to fruition.

From 2015 to 2017, Illinois experienced a nearly three-year impasse, which did massive damage to the state’s and its institutions’ financial standing.

The impasse, instigated by Rauner when he demanded the General Assembly pass non-budgetary reforms before passing a budget, saw the state’s backlog of unpaid bills grow to more than $15 billion. In 2015, when Governor Rauner first took office, the state’s unpaid bill backlog was about $6 billion.

In July 2017, lawmakers passed a state budget without the involvement of the Governor. 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 irreparable damage to the state’s finances and institutions.

Rauner’s pitch now, as in 2015, included big ideas, like pension reform, right-to-work union-busting policies, term limits, and smaller items, like reforming the state’s gas tax, allowing municipalities to declare bankruptcy, and reforming the state’s guidelines for lawsuits.

The 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.

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