Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner announced that he is vetoing the remainder of the budget bills via an op-ed Thursday. The move means the state is now that much closer to a government shutdown once the current fiscal year ends on June 30.
Rauner vetoed the remaining 19 budget bills Thursday, saying the $4 billion shortfall in the budget was "out of balance" and challenged its constitutionality.
"For too long, the State of Illinois has made spending promises that exceed available revenues, relied on accounting gimmicks to make budgets appear balanced, used borrowing and cost deferral strategies to push costs into the future, and delayed payments to vendors," Rauner stated in his veto message.
"A balanced budget is not just good practice, it is a constitutional requirement: 'Appropriations for a fiscal year shall not exceed funds estimated by the General Assembly to be available during that year.' Ill. Const. art. VIII, sec. 2(b)," the governor added. "Although the General Assembly has chosen to disregard its constitutional obligation, as Governor I cannot approve a budget that violates this fundamental principle."
Rauner then outlined his administration's alternative "plan [that] builds on the compromise our administration offered before the regular legislative session concluded in May." He reiterated his desire for unspecified workers' compensation and redistricting reforms and a property tax freeze -- all of which are elements of his controversial "Turnaround Agenda."
Rauner also offered what he deemed to be "compromises."
For instance, in order to assist in paying some of the Chicago Public Schools' pension costs, Rauner says he would agree to look into a rewrite of the Illinois school funding formula and limit a property tax freeze to two years. But the school district would have to give up some of the special block grants it receives to get the pension relief that Rauner says will "help save Chicago from years of financial mismanagement while making sure local communities without Chicago's clout get relief."
"At the request of Senate President John Cullerton, we are prepared to reform Illinois' school funding formula as part of our tax freeze package," Rauner wrote. "A commission charged with rewriting the formula would report back by the end of 2016, with the current funding formula expiring six months later. As part of the compromise, we would allow the state to pay normal costs for Chicago teacher pensions, as it does for all other Illinois school districts, in exchange for sun-setting Chicago's special block grants."
The office of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel offered up a lukewarm response to the CPS portion of Rauner's proposal.
"We're pleased that, for the first time, an Illinois governor has committed the state to addressing the pension inequity at Chicago Public Schools," Emanuel spokesperson Kelley Quinn said, according to Crain's. "Unfortunately, the Governor's proposal would actually further reduce CPS funding by taking away block grant funding, costing the system hundreds of millions of dollars. CPS wants and deserves pension parity with districts like Barrington, Winnetka, and Hinsdale ... This is not fair to our children, and we look forward to working with the Governor to end this shameful inequity."
Rauner also detailed what he says is a concession on the issue of term limits.
"We are willing to compromise on timing by asking legislative leaders to publicly commit to giving term limits and redistricting reform a vote on the floors of both chambers sometime in the next 10 months, in time to get them on the 2016 ballot," Rauner wrote.
Additionally, the governor furled pension reform into his editorial detailing his decision to veto majority of the budget:
Government pensions are among the largest cost drivers for state and local governments. We are willing to give local governments the short-term relief they have requested in exchange for a true, long-term solution.
We can deliver comprehensive pension reform by taking elements of President Cullerton's consideration model, along with revised portions of our administration's plan, to encourage many government employees to move into Tier 2 or a new Tier 3 program. In the compromise, we are willing to support Cook County's pension reform plan and allow Chicago and downstate communities to implement longer, slower pension payment schedules.
Pension reform is not a prerequisite to signing the budget, but it should be completed this year. I'm committed to it, and I ask for the state's legislative leaders to be equally committed.
Illinois Senate President Cullerton didn't appear to be very moved by Rauner's proposals, with his office issuing the following statement in response.
"Cullerton will continue to have a open and cooperative dialogue with the governor about how we can move forward together," according to his office. "But today's actions signal that the governor may be more interested in a shutdown than reasonable compromises and a balanced approach to budgeting."
Meanwhile, House Speaker Michael Madigan stated his displeasure with Rauner's move, adding that he is glad his chamber moved to hold hearings next week to evaluate how a state government shutdown would affect low-income and middle-class Illinoisans.
"It is good the House set the wheels in motion on Wednesday for a Committee of the Whole hearing on agency preparations for the government shutdown," Madigan said. "It seems the governor missed an opportunity to avoid disrupting the lives of many, many middle class families for the sake of non budget issues.These non budget issues have been thoroughly debated. Some were adopted by the House. Others were rejected when there was no persuasive case made."
Labor and public policy groups have noted their displeasure with Rauner's actions, including leaders with Voice for Illinois Children and SEIU* Healthcare Illinois.
From Voices for Illinois Children Policy and Advocacy Director Emily Miller:
Governor Rauner approved spending for schools and early childhood programs yesterday, but vetoed all other state spending on the grounds there is inadequate revenue. The Responsible Budget Coalition is pleased the Governor declined to hold school children "hostage" to the budget standoff. However, what the Governor has done by failing to work with the legislature to adopt adequate revenue to fund the entire state budget is to hold hostage a long list of others: seniors, people with disabilities, people living with mental illnesses, parents needing child care to continue working, college kids, local governments, and the list goes on. Many of those hostages are families whose children will suffer even if their local schools open their doors on time. Schools are just one part of a much larger state budget. The Responsible Budget Coalition urges the Governor and legislators to work together to find the revenue to fund the entire state budget on time to avoid disruption of vital public services.
From SEIU* Illinois Council President Keith Kelleher:
In vetoing this budget, Gov. Bruce Rauner has turned his back on hundreds of thousands of vulnerable Illinoisans who, while they played no role in creating the budget deficits now facing our state, are nevertheless the ones being asked to now sacrifice the most.
The real immediate needs of seniors, people with disabilities, retired veterans, low-income children and working parents are about to go unmet but instead Gov. Rauner is blaming others for the present crisis of his creation.
What Gov. Rauner did today was NOT the act of leadership which he proclaims but an irresponsible blow that will most harm the least fortunate among us.
* The SEIU Illinois Council sponsors this website.