Rauner praises suburban government consolidation efforts
SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Bruce Rauner implored lawmakers to meet him halfway on a long-sought budget agreement Wednesday during his third State of the State address, which sought to highlight accomplishments that the ongoing stalemate has drowned out.
The first-term Republican also used the speech to dip his toe into the war of words involving President Trump and violence in Chicago. And he praised suburban government consolidation efforts.
Rauner highlighted his administration's progress in increasing government transparency, consolidating bureaucracy and using technology to exercise greater oversight over programs like Medicaid. He praised Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti of Wheaton for leading government consolidation efforts, and the villages of Grayslake and Hainesville for saving $500,000 per year by consolidating services.
Rauner recounted painful fiscal statistics from the nearly two-year budget stalemate with Democrats who control the Legislature, saying it has resulted in a predicted $5.3 billion deficit and $11 billion in overdue bills. He praised Senate leaders for working on a bipartisan compromise. But he stuck to his pro-business, anti-union, political power-limit agenda, claiming the state's economy could "take off like a rocket ship" if lawmakers followed his lead.
Rauner lauded recent successes in criminal justice reform -- including a commission's recommendation to shift correctional focus to rehabilitating nonviolent offenders and reducing the juvenile justice population. But he said such strides were "overshadowed" by skyrocketing violence in Chicago. His comments came after Trump tweeted that he would "send in the Feds!" to curb crime. Rauner says he is offering the assistance of the state police. Members of Illinois' black caucus said later it's hypocritical for Rauner to call for action when it's his budget intransigence that has cut services to poor communities.
Rauner says he supports more funding for elementary and secondary education and says his education funding task force will present ideas for reforming the state's school funding formula, which relies heavily on local property taxes. The Senate is considering a budget compromise plan that would revise the formula and cut property taxes.