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Legislators largely pan governor’s budget message

State legislators are weighing with almost universally negative comments about the budget message offered Wednesday by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

rauner bruceMost of them are critical of his lack of specifics for fixing Illinois’ dismal finances, although more details are expected to emerge today in a discussion by a top state budget official.

Here is a sampling:

— State Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill:

“Central Illinois will continue to bear the economic brunt of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget stalemate as long as he is willing to leverage it for reforms that benefit his wealthy friends. The budget recommendations the governor announced in his address to the General Assembly are about $5 billion out of balance.

I heard very little in the budget address today to make me believe the governor plans to put an end this two-year budget impasse or that he’s come to understand the economic upheaval he’s caused in central Illinois, where many families and business owners rely on state government for their paychecks and their health insurance.

“There are real-life consequences every day that goes by that the governor refuses to propose and embrace a balanced budget. Small businesses close. People can’t pay their bills or schedule doctor appointments. Auto dealerships don’t sell cars, and real estate agents don’t sell homes. People stop going out to dinner and to movies. They burn through their savings.

“Gov. Rauner has put the squeeze on central Illinois families and businesses in a way no one has ever seen. We need to enact a balanced budget and end this impasse immediately.”

– State Rep. Dan Beiser, D-Alton:

“Each year Gov. Rauner has come before the General Assembly to share his budget proposal and for the third year in a row, he has failed. Instead of hearing details of how the governor plans to work with the legislature on getting a budget that doesn’t put our most vulnerable citizens at risk, we again heard empty platitudes about reforming Illinois. At this point, what would truly be reforming Illinois would be to have an actual budget in place.

“I hear from my constituents every day about how the governor has cut funding for home health care for seniors, about veterans who can’t get services that they depend on and how people with developmental disabilities no longer have access to the assistance they need. These are heart-wrenching stories that could easily be solved if the governor put his agenda to the side and actually worked with legislators to develop a budget solution.

“At the same time, I understand his desire to pass reforms that will help grow Illinois, but we have to make sure that these reforms do more than cut wages and strip away protections for workers. I am committed to supporting reforms that will lift up the middle class, like increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit and raising the minimum wage. I want to help small and medium-sized businesses that create the most jobs by cutting their taxes and leveling the playing field. I also think we have to make companies that take Illinois tax dollars to create jobs, but then ship them overseas to pay us back.

“All of these reforms though, won’t do nearly as much good if there is not a budget in state to support our social services, police and fire departments, schools, colleges and universities. I call on the governor, once again, to come back to the negotiating table with legislators from both sides of the aisle and get a budget in place.”

— State Sen. Pat McGuire, D-Joliet.

“The governor’s attitude toward the Senate bipartisan compromise is perplexing and frightening. In his budget address today, the governor called for procurement reform to ‘save us hundreds of millions next year alone.’ In fact, a reform bill which would do just that and which is part of the Senate’s grand bargain was passed by the Senate on Feb. 8, but with only Democratic votes.

“Is the governor mouthing support for this bipartisan breakthrough, while in truth putting the brakes on it? Senate President John Cullerton and Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno realize the urgent need for Illinois to have a budget. The Governor should give their efforts an unambiguous boost.”

– State Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon

“I was encourage to hear the governor say that he was against taxing food and drugs. That’s great. And, what he said was, ‘We can find a way to balance the budget without hurting low-income families and fixed income seniors.’ Well, that’s good to hear, but the problem is, who then are ‘we’ going to hit? Who then are ‘we’ going to penalize for the sins of this Legislature to live within their means?

“The middle-class should not have to pay for the irresponsible; the irresponsibility of decades of this Legislature. They should not have to pay for the sins of this Legislature. It’s not right. And so, what we’ve got to do is focus on reducing the size of this government to where it’s affordable to the people of Illinois. Not start with this $38 billion dream of how big ‘we’ want government to be and then see how much ‘we’ can extract out of the taxpayers’ pockets to pay to pay for it.”

— State Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, D-Shorewood:

“The governor in his speech today said it himself – the last budget he proposed was two years ago. However, he continues to place blame on legislators. He called off working groups, he stopped leadership meetings and he halted the work being done in the Senate. His speech today was not a budget address. It was a lecture without any substance.”

— State Sen. Patricia Van Pelt, D-Chicago:

“For the third year in a row, the governor failed to fulfill his constitutional duty to propose a balanced state budget. Governor Rauner’s lack of leadership and ownership shows that he’s not willing to make fixing Illinois’ budget crisis his problem. As a result, human service programs that provide opportunities and assistance to those in need will continue to be underfunded. And while I appreciate his calls to fund public safety and criminal justice reform efforts, he has spent the last two years talking, not doing. It’s time for the governor to put his money where his mouth is and finally take action to fund human service programs and enact meaningful criminal justice reform.”

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