Nearly a year ago, the wealthy venture capitalist turned
Republican governor used the annual speech to the legislature to lay
out an ambitious agenda that included business-friendly changes to
workers' compensation, a freeze on local property taxes, curbs on
public sector collective bargaining, and legislative term limits.
But Rauner's so-called turnaround to-do list hit a brick wall in the
Democrat-controlled legislature, where House Speaker Michael Madigan
pronounced it "extreme." The stalemate has left Illinois without a
budget more than halfway through fiscal 2016.
"Governor Rauner stands ready to pass structural reforms and a
balanced budget that will help fund social-service programs and
jumpstart our economy,” his spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said in
response to funding pleas on Tuesday from nonprofit agencies.
Democrats, however, continue to balk at the governor's agenda.
"What the speaker and I have been saying all along is 'Let's fix the
budget,'" Senate President John Cullerton told reporters on Monday.
Rauner "has these side issues he has been holding to. We're willing
to talk about those topics, make some changes, but not dramatic
radical changes, especially when there's a supermajority of
About 90 percent of state government is being funded through court
orders, an enacted spending bill for K-12 schools, and continuing
appropriations for big ticket items, such as pensions and bonds.
State universities and colleges have been left out in the cold along
with 125,000 students who qualified for state assistance, forcing
some schools to announce layoffs, while Chicago State University
warned it will run out of cash in March.
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A coalition of nonprofit agencies on Tuesday called for a revenue
hike to keep Illinois' social service and higher education
infrastructure from crumbling further.
Illinois' biggest social services provider announced on Friday it
was eliminating 750 jobs and shuttering more than 30 programs
affecting about 4,700 seniors, children, veterans and other
residents because the state is over $6 million in arrears.
"The state of our state is just desperate at this point," said Dan
Lesser, a director at the Shriver Center, an advocate for the poor.
Cullerton said Democrats cannot hike taxes on their own.
"We're not going to have any tax increase unless Bruce Rauner agrees
to it," Cullerton said.
(Reporting by Karen Pierog, editing by G Crosse)
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