News Local/State

Asked About Ways To Cut Budget, Rauner Agency Heads Stay Silent

Illinois Statehouse

Illinois Statehouse (Photo: Brian Mackey/WUIS)

Governor Bruce Rauner said Tuesday that Senate Democrats must make “real spending cuts” in their proposed budget compromise. But just a few hours later, Rauner administration agency heads frustrated state senators by refusing to answer questions about where agencies could tighten their belts.

Several Senate committees grilled agency directors Tuesday about spending cuts to deal with a multibillion-dollar deficit. The Democratic-controlled committees teamed up to put Rauner on the spot.  They blame him for scuttling the Senate's negotiated budget compromise last week.\

The state schools superintendent, the Human Services secretary and director of juvenile justice and more told lawmakers they could not answer the question.

At one of several similar hearings, state Senator Patricia Van Pelt of Chicago grilled Public Health director Nirav Shah.

Van Pelt asked if Shah could suggest cuts to help make up the shortfall, but Shah declined.

“So are you saying you can’t cut?” asked Van Pelt. “I’m asking you for one cut. Can you give me one cut?"

“I’m not prepared to discuss any,” said Shah. “It is worth noting that our proposed budget, as it stands, does contain several budgetary reductions.”

Shah went on out outline about $3.8 million dollars in cuts — a tiny fraction of the deficit.

Democratic Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant  heads the education committee. She says the Senate needs help deciding on cuts if Rauner opposes the "grand bargain" vote called off last week.  Democrats say Rauner's opposition persuaded GOP senators to back off.

A few hours before the agency heads gave their Senate testimony, Governor Rauner