Tags: illinois | Bruce Rauner | budget | cuts | pensions | education | medicaid

Illinois Gov. Rauner's Budget Seeks Deep Cuts, Pension Reform

Illinois Gov. Rauner's Budget Seeks Deep Cuts, Pension Reform
(John Gress/Getty Images)

By    |   Thursday, 19 February 2015 02:15 PM

Facing the worst credit rating among 50 states and a pension system thought to be underfunded by more than $111 billion, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has proposed to cut his state's budget by $6 billion, The New York Times reported.

Rauner's first budget as governor is dire, as the newly elected Republican seeks to right the state's disastrous finances and solve a pension crisis described by the Times as "crippling."

The budget slashes state spending on higher education by $400 million but grows its K-12 education system by $300 million. Local government spending would be cut by $600 million and the state would spend $1.5 billion less on Medicaid, the Times said.

Most controversial, the Times noted, would be the governor's attempt to rein in labor pensions. Rauner was blunt about pension reforms.

"As it stands right now, one out of every four dollars taken from taxpayers by the state goes into a system that is giving more than 11,000 government retirees tax-free, six-figure pensions worth as much as, in one case, $450,000 per year," Mr. Rauner said in a speech to state lawmakers Wednesday.

How his drastic reshaping of state finances — which he dubbed a "turnaround budget" — goes over with the Democratic-led legislature is yet to be seen, but already the state Senate president was pushing back.

"Governor Rauner’s plan includes proposals that will undermine access to health services, child care, affordable college and retirement security for working- and middle-class families," John J. Cullerton said in response to the proposed $31.5 billion budget crafted by Rauner, who is a former private equity fund chairman.

State Rep. Lou Lang, a Democrat from Skokie, told the Chicago Tribune: "One of the things Gov. Rauner has to learn is the Illinois Constitution refers to the General Assembly and the governor as partners. He wants to run the government like it's a business, we're middle management, and he's the CEO, and we must take orders. That's not going to work."

Rauner said that the state has to take a drastic look at its economic picture.

"Like a family, we must come together to address the reality we face. Families know that every member can’t get everything they want," he said.

But Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, locked in a tough re-election bid and facing his city's own fiscal problems, bit back, the Tribune said, as he urged the governor to seek his cuts on the backs of the wealthy, not the middle class.

"If you’re going to look for major reforms and finding savings, I suggest you look at the tax code where there’s a bunch of corporate giveaways and corporate loopholes," Emanuel said.

"That’s a perfect place to start," he added, "but do not think you are going to do this, not only on the backs of families and children, but the resources that go directly to the city are things that we use to pay for our police, firefighters and first responders."

Police officers and firefighters are exempt under Rauner's pension reform proposals, the Times said.

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Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner is proposing to cut his state's budget by $6 billion as he seeks to right the state's disastrous finances and solve a "crippling" pension crisis, The New York Times reported.
illinois, Bruce Rauner, budget, cuts, pensions, education, medicaid
Thursday, 19 February 2015 02:15 PM
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