Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner delivered his much anticipated fiscal year 2016 budget address Wednesday from the State Capitol.
The Republican governor began his address by bluntly stating how devastating the budget stalemate has been on Illinois and emphasizing that a tax hike will not solve the state’s financial crisis.
Illinois has been operating without a budget since July 1 after Rauner vetoed a spending plan sent to him by the Democrat-controlled legislature, resulting in many spending cuts statewide.
In his address, Rauner encouraged lawmakers to work together to create “real reform” that will create jobs and save taxpayers. The governor also told legislators to stop sending him spending plans that will be vetoed, stating that more jobs will translate to more people working and, ultimately, more people paying taxes.
“We have to change our state’s reputation of being hostile to business,” Rauner said.
In response to the governor’s address, Jil Tracy, Republican candidate for state senator in District 47, said the first thing legislators need to do is put together a budget with cutbacks.
“Everybody says they can’t find places to cut back, but I do believe each agency should take a lead and just go through every possible area that they can,” Tracy said.
The former Republican member of the Illinois House said the overspending that led to the crisis must come to an end and lawmakers should put their heads together to come up with a solution.
“We need to be more creative in the way we deliver state services,” Tracy said. "The MAP grants are very controversial, and it’s very heart-rending to see students caught in a lurch when they weren’t expecting the rug was going to be pulled out from under them."
The Monetary Award Program (MAP) provides grants to Illinois residents who attend approved Illinois colleges; the grants do not have to be repaid. Colleges and universities in Illinois have been running without funding from the state since the budget impasse.
Tracy said people in Illinois need to get to a place where they are not so dependent on government aid to get an education.
“We need to be funding higher education so that tuition doesn’t increase and so that there isn’t such a need for something like a MAP grant,” Tracy said. “MAP grants are taxpayer money and they’re being given to individual students and a lot of accountability needs to be done to see what progress is made by the students, if they actually finish their studies and to see if they are actually making the best use of their degree. Any time we can make higher education more affordable so a person needs less grants is, to me, a step in the right direction.”
The governor said an unbalanced budget would put “everything on the table” for funding cut except funding for early childhood education and general aid to schools.
“So it’s not an easy process, but I applaud the efforts of the governor for trying to reinvent the wheel of the way we do business in Illinois and make it more of a competitive state,” Tracy said.
Democratic state Sen. John Sullivan, who is retiring, said he appreciated the governor’s tone during the address and believes Rauner made some good points.
“To my knowledge I think that is the first time he has not used the words collective bargaining,” Sullivan said. “He did talk about giving local units of government more ability for unfunded mandates. So he kind of alluded to it but he didn’t specifically mention it. And I have said from Day 1, for us to reach an agreement I think the collective bargaining is going to have to be taken off the table.”