Rauner Defends Canceling Leaders Meeting As Budget Deadline Looms
Negotiations over a new Illinois state budget have recently come to a screeching halt. Illinois’ elected leaders aren’t even meeting despite a looming deadline of Dec. 31 before the state once again has no budget.
Gov. Bruce Rauner canceled Thursday’s scheduled meeting with top Democratic and Republican lawmakers. While talking with reporters, Rauner said Democrats want to talk about the budget without saying how much they want to spend.
“There’s a lot of stalling going on and what we’ve gotta do is just focus like a laser, focus like a laser on getting a balanced budget with reforms so that (we) protect our taxpayers and grow jobs,” Rauner said.
Rauner has criticized Illinois’ business climate since taking office in 2014, mandating lawmakers agree to changes in the state’s workers compensation regulations, term limits for lawmakers, a property tax freeze and changes to collective bargaining rights.
Rauner said those economic changes would bring in new businesses, helping the state’s finances in the long-term.
Democrats have said the governor is responsible for introducing budgets, not individual lawmakers. They have not agreed to any elements of Rauner’s pro-business, union-weakening agenda, stressing his policies would hurt the state’s working class.
After Rauner canceled Thursday’s leaders meeting, a spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan wouldn’t guess when they will meet again.
“I don’t do predictions,” said Madigan spokesman Steve Brown. “We’re gonna try to understand and examine the governor’s actions.”
Meantime, the state’s backlog of bills has rapidly grown and is close to reaching $11 billion, according to the Illinois comptroller’s office.
Last year, the Illinois went a full year without a state budget. During that time, judges demanded the state pay for Medicaid and employee salaries, keeping a vast majority of state government open.
But public universities and social services did not have court mandates to be paid and took the biggest financial hits. If legislative leaders and Rauner do not reach an agreement by the end of the month, those two sectors are likely to be hit financially once again.
Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him @tonyjarnold.