March 3, 2017
Gov. Bruce Rauner sank to a new low this week, and he took the state’s latest hope for a budget deal with him.
For unclear reasons, the governor chose to interfere in Senate negotiations on the much-anticipated grand bargain, a package of bipartisan measures designed to cut costs, reform state government and generate revenue. Some of the proposals reflected Democratic priorities, others reflected Republican priorities. And some contained proposals that directly reflected priorities set forth in the governor’s agenda, such as workers compensation reform, pension reform and a property tax freeze.
Even the governor’s own budget proposal – unbalanced by at least $4.6 billion – was counting on the all-or-nothing comprehensive Senate deal. For weeks, the governor publicly encouraged the Senate to continue negotiating the grand bargain and vowed he would not interfere with our efforts.
But on Wednesday, as senators prepared to take votes on some of the more difficult issues in the package, the governor apparently no longer could sit idly by, choosing instead to intimidate Republicans into withdrawing their support for the deal.
His interference effectively killed a bipartisan compromise that had been in the works for months and could have helped resolve the state’s crippling two-year budget stalemate.
In my work as a state lawmaker, I rarely have felt as frustrated as I felt Wednesday when the rug was pulled out from under me and everyone else who had worked so hard on this deal and had negotiated in good faith.
Gov. Rauner refuses to present a balanced budget – even though the Illinois Constitution requires him to do so – and he killed the Senate’s effort to achieve one. That doesn’t sound like a governor whose number one priority is to end the budget stalemate.
In spite of those challenges, my colleagues and I in the Senate are committed to ending the budget stalemate. Expect to see this issue receive even more attention in the coming weeks. I’ll keep you posted.