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Gov. Rauner Denies Derailing 'Grand Bargain'

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner continues to deny he had a heavy-handed role in derailing the so-called grand bargain to end the state budget impasse, even as Senate Democrats accuse him of pulling GOP votes off of the deal.

Appearing on WBEZ’s Morning Shift on Friday, Rauner said “we should help” senators keep negotiating so they reach his goals of instituting a permanent property tax freeze and changing workers’ compensation rules.

“I’m not sure there was any particular vote that was ready or not ready. The negotiations have been very fluid. There have been drafts of bills, changes to bills,” Rauner said.

Senate Democrats spent the week in Springfield asking the leaders of state agencies where they plan to make cuts. Rauner’s budget proposal had counted on $4.6 billion in savings from the Senate’s grand bargain, but those savings are now in question because negotiations have stalled. Democrats have alleged Rauner was not negotiating in good faith. They also claim he changed what he wanted included in the grand bargain at the last minute to get Senate Republicans off the deal.

“We thought that day we were gonna have votes the next day and all of a sudden, we had no votes as people were getting called into the governor’s office,” Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) said Thursday during a news conference.

“That’s not true, but there’s a lot of misinformation out there,” Rauner said Friday on WBEZ. “The reality is, the senators, I believe, have been negotiating in good faith. I think we should continue to have them negotiate.”

When asked what’s next for reaching a compromise to end the 20-month budget stalemate, Rauner said “persistence.” He also criticized shifting the state from a flat to a graduated income tax rate, saying, “We’ll see the flood of businesses go to a torrent out of Illinois.”

In answering calls from WBEZ listeners, Rauner also addressed several other topics.

On criticism from Chance The Rapper to “Do your job”

Earlier this week, as Chance The Rapper announced he’d donate $1 million to Chicago Public Schools, the Grammy-award winner criticized Rauner for vetoing $215 million in state money that was set aside for CPS. Chance’s critique followed a private meeting with Rauner at the Thompson Center. The governor arranged the meeting after the rapper’s Grammy win.

On Friday, Rauner responded to Chance’s criticism.

“I was hoping he would stand with me and advocate for one of two options to pay for it,” Rauner said.

Rauner has suggested two ways to close CPS’ budget gap: The city could dip into funds collected in the controversial taxing areas known as tax increment financing districts, or lawmakers could tie the $215 million to legislation addressing the state’s underfunded pensions.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel dismissed those ideas earlier in the week, accusing Rauner of being the “emperor (who) wears no clothes.”

On the GOP’s plan to replace Obamacare

Rauner continued his criticism of the American Health Care Act, the plan unveiled by Republicans in the U.S. House to replace President Barack Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act.

“The changes coming are likely to damage many states and leave many people without insurance, be very disruptive,” Rauner said. “This is very concerning to me.”

Without naming specific proposals, Rauner said he and other Republican governors are advocating for their own changes to the ACA. Seven Republican governors recently submitted their own proposal to Congress.

On paying Deputy Governor Leslie Munger’s salary from two funds related to health care

The Associated Press recently reported Rauner's administration had arranged to pay a new deputy governor out of an employee health care account that is more than $4 billion behind on its bills due to the state's budget crisis.

Rauner hired former Comptroller Leslie Munger to work in his administration after voters ousted her in the November election.

Rauner chalked the story up to “simply an error.”

“The report, I think, is false. If there’s been accounting error, we’ll correct it,” Rauner said when asked about the story. “She’s going to be paid out of the standard ways that some other of our key staff are paid.”

Tony Arnold covers politics for WBEZ. Follow him and @tonyjarnold.

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