Rauner Continues To Push Austerity While Poll Shows Voters Open To New Revenues

 

When lawmakers in Springfield begin crafting a state budget for next year they'll have $2 billion less to work with than they had last year.

That decrease stems from a drop in state's income tax rate...but a new survey says Illinoisans would be up for new revenue, if it meant fewer cuts.

While running for governor, Republican Bruce Rauner said he'd be open to new revenue sources, like expanding service taxes and taxing retirement income. But since being elected, Rauner has tweaked that message:

"We're open to tax reform and tax overhaul," Rauner told reporters in Decatur Monday. "The critical thing is that first we get structural change. Because if all we do is talk about revenue or talk about spending levels without talking about structure, we'll be right back in the soup in future years."

That "structural change" he's talking about is a combination of cuts to state government, and pro-business initiatives like changes to workers compensation.

But Charles Leonard with the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University says voters just aren't buying the idea that reducing spending alone will put the state back on track. He says voters have been "Observing cuts and threatened cuts in programs that they like."

And he says they're warming up to increasing revenues.

"Because we've been cutting and cutting and cutting, and the budget is not shrinking fast enough," Leonard said.

Leonard says in the past five years, the institute has found that fewer and fewer voters believe that the state uses money on unnecessary spending.

But before tackling the budget for fiscal year 2016, lawmakers have to fill the gaps in the current year's budget.

There's just one week left until lawmakers in Springfield go on a two-week spring break, and leaders from both parties say they want to use this week to close those budget holes.

But since state-run programs began running out of money two months ago, both parties have been fighting over where that money should come from.

When the General Assembly passed this year's budget last spring, lawmakers were relying on the assumption that Democratic Governor Pat Quinn would be reelected, and the income tax rate would stay where it was.

Instead, Republican Bruce Rauner defeated Quinn, and the tax decreased by 25 percent. That left a $2 billion-dollar hole in the budget for the rest of the year.

Programs like subsdized daycare, prison guard salaries and pay for court reporters has begun running dry...months before the new fiscal year begins on July 1.

Speaking with reporters in Decatur, the governor joked that democracy is slow when it comes to the legislature deciding which money should be reallocated to these programs.

"In business, obviously we would have had the budget issue addressed probably six weeks ago," he said. "The General Assembly has different opinions on what's nonessential and what is essential. They're working that through now; I believe we're very close on that."

Lawmakers are deciding what funds to borrow money from...a relatively common practice. 

But Rauner wants to sweep the cash and not pay it back, saying these funds are a place to hide money in government.

Story source: WILL