Gov. Rauner Delivers His 3rd Budget Address

Governor Bruce Rauner has consistently praised the Senate leadership in its bi-partisan approach to create a spending plan called the Grand Bargain.

During his budget address Wednesday, Rauner repeated his call for term limits, worker's compensation and pension reform and reining in state employee health insurance costs.

"Our spending proposals are significant, but if we came together under our proposal, if we came together on a grand bargain, we'd actually spend $3 billion less than government is currently spending."
State Senator Dale Fowler of Harrisburg says worker's compensation reform is essential to help bring jobs to southern Illinois.
"Every meeting I go to, every company I go to try to recruit, every company I go to that is currently located, that's the number one thing they bring to the table. They say we can create more jobs, we can stop losing jobs if we can get our worker's compensation costs in order."

Although Governor Bruce Rauner isn't shy about voicing his support for the Senate's attempt at a bi-partisan budget agreement, he doesn't like all aspects of the Grand Bargain.
"The current Senate proposal would expand the state's sales tax to cover everyday services, and raise taxes on food and drugs. We're open to a broader sales tax base to mirror neighboring states like Wisconsin, but let's make sure it's best  for the people of Illinois, not for the lobbyists here in Springfield."
Rauner says the state must find a way to balance the budget without hurting lower-income families and fixed-income seniors.

State Senator Kyle McCarter says he's glad to hear that. But, the Lebanon republican says he's worried that will mean more of the burden will fall on the middle class.
"The middle class should not have to pay for the irresponsibility of decades of this legislature. They should not have to pay for the sins of this legislature. It's not right."
McCarter says Illinois lawmakers need to focus on reducing the size of state government to make it affordable for its residents.

Governor Bruce Rauner says he is proposing a record level of funding for Illinois schools. He says one aspect of that is fully funding regular transportation costs for schools around the state.
"Enabling them to get kids to and from career and technical education programs. School districts shouldn't have to scramble to find a way to pay for transportation costs. Our budget ends this proration once and for all."
Rauner recently visited Herrin Jr. High School. Principal Brad Heuring  says his school can use all the funding it can get because he and his staff have to meet more than just the students' academic needs.
"Granted, we'd like to have some more technology and some things like that. But, that comes secondary from you got to get the kids needs met before you can meet the needs of their education, which is what we try to do every day with both."
Rauner says his proposal maximizes federal dollars that build technology infrastructure in schools.

Rauner didn't have much to say about higher education.

But, the governor said he understands the hardship felt by students who rely on state assistance to go to college.
"That's why we're proposing a 10 percent increase to MAP Grant funding - so those students can focus on learning, and not their next tuition bill."
In his State of the State address last month, Governor Rauner called for an innovation center including SIU, the University of Illinois, and private schools like Northwestern and the University of Chicago. State Senator Paul Schimpf of Waterloo says Rauner recognizes how important higher education is to the state.
"I'm certainly going to continue beating the drum because SIU is the largest job provider in the 58th Senate district. I'm comfortable in that I believe the governor understands the importance and the need for higher education funding."

Next year's election may already be weighing on the minds of Illinois lawmakers and Governor Bruce Rauner.

Paul Simon Public Policy Analyst John Jackson says the Senate's so-called "Grand Bargain" got an endorsement from Governor Rauner in Wednesday's Budget Address - he says all parties are going to want something to take home to voters over the next several months.
"There's enough in there for everyone to brag on. You can go home and claim - in this area, for example - that you got the OK for the casino at Walker's Bluff, you got things for the schools, and so that's the way the legislative process has to work."
Jackson says there are still big issues to tackle - including taxes and higher education funding - but he says there appears to be an air of collaboration in Springfield for now.