After one year, Rauner sounds familiar tune

 
 
Updated 1/11/2016 7:09 PM
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  • Gov. Bruce Rauner talks about his first year in office Monday.

      Gov. Bruce Rauner talks about his first year in office Monday. Mary Hansen | Staff Photographer

Gov. Bruce Rauner is marking his anniversary in office Tuesday by echoing some of the themes that got him into office, saying both that he's ready to compromise and criticizing what he called the "stunning failure" of state lawmakers as a historic budget stalemate drags through a seventh month.

"We aren't doing our duty if we don't come together and get bipartisan compromise and get a balanced budget. We're failing," Rauner said Monday. "The General Assembly, stunning failure."

Rauner, a Republican, says he's still optimistic Democrats including House Speaker Michael Madigan will advance some of the pro-business proposals in a package Rauner calls the Turnaround Agenda. He says it's a necessary first step in passing a budget, but Democrats criticize the plan.

"That doesn't feel like compromise to me," state Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat, said. "That feels like, 'Do it my way, and everything will be fine.'"

Rauner last month agreed to a plan to pay money to municipalities for things like road salt and to pay lottery winners their money. But he said any attempt to cover other things, such as college and university operations and a large need-based scholarship program, will have to wait until lawmakers agree on a budget.

Rauner suggested changes in how the state funds schools could be part of a budget deal. Previously, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs said that would have to be put off, but Democratic Senate President John Cullerton has said the effort should continue.

"If he says ... let's have the funding formula be part of our grand bargain now, that's fine," Rauner said.

Rauner conducted a series of media interviews from the Executive Mansion in Springfield to mark his first year on the job. He was noncommital on some issues.

• Suburban mayors who fear their share of income taxes will be slashed to cover the state's deficit in a final budget deal will have to keep watching.

"I don't want to speculate about what the final budget numbers would look like," Rauner said. "We've talked about certain reductions at certain levels from (the local share). My preference is not to have to do that."

"As part of a grand bargain, I'm not going to sit here today and say what will or won't be in any final (budget)," he said.

• On a potential extension of Route 53 in Lake County, Rauner said he doesn't have a specific position but wants to find a way to pay for more road and bridge projects.

"Having grown up in Lake County, I know how hard it is to get around, but I can't comment on the pros and cons of that particular extension," he said.

Lawmakers aren't set to meet much until after the March 15 primary election, and the Illinois House isn't scheduled to be at the Capitol until Rauner's State of the State Address at the end of the month.

Rauner particularly pointed to Madigan, saying the stalemate hinges on when Madigan allows votes on the governor's ideas. But Madigan has throughout the budget war called Rauner "extreme" and said the governor's proposals should be kept outside the budget debate.

Asked if voters will blame Rauner for the ongoing strife because he's the state's chief executive, the new governor said people understand he's the new guy.

"People understand that I've been in office for now exactly one year and I've made major changes," he said. "And the changes are needed."

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