News Local/State

Governor Rauner Wants Special Budgeting Powers To Fix Budget Holes


Since his election in November, Governor Bruce Rauner has expressed surprise about what he says he's "discovering" in the state's budget. It turns out, Rauner has been setting himself up to ask for special budgeting powers.

Last week, a rather emotional Senate committee hearing in Springfield set the scene.

The state's program for childcare assistance is running out of money meaning parents left without subsidies might have to choose between staying home with their kids, or working just to cover that cost.

That $300 million dollar shortfall is the first of many budget bombs that are set to go off left by former Governor Pat Quinn's administration on the way out of office.

Democrats had been counting on a Quinn victory in November and had passed a budget last Spring that acknowledged the eventual extension of the 2011 income tax hike.

But Quinn was ousted, and Democrats weren't eager to help out governor Rauner with a budget fix especially when he'd repeatedly promised to fix the state without that tax increase.

Now, Rauner wants special budgeting powers to fix these budget holes.
"Many key departments are running out of money. We've had a dishonest government structure. What I've asked the legislature to do, and I'm working closely with them, is to allow me to reallocate money out of non-essential activities and put it into what's essential. We'll do that in the short run," said Rauner.
Rauner wants to borrow money from special funds within state government -- revenues funded by specific fees.

It's a bit like using your vacation savings to go grocery shopping.

This isn't an unusual strategy; Interfund borrowing was a part of this year's budget.

Back in May, Senator Dan Biss, a Democrat from Evanston said Rauner's budget will delay som very important decisions, but the governor needs the authority to manage the situation.
But the difference here is that most interfund borrowing must be paid back in a year and a half with interest.

Governor Rauner doesn't want to do that.

He says he views the myriad of special funds in state government as a place to hide money.

To borrow from and not pay back these funds seems disingenuous to new Treasurer Mike Frerichs, a Democrat.
"I think that when we borrow, we should pay back our debts," Frerichs said, "I haven't seen the details, but I think that we should not be getting in the habit of raiding other special funds out there."
The next budget bomb set to go off is the state's prison system.

The Department of Corrections may begin being short on payroll as early as March.