- Published: Friday, January 29, 2016 04:21 PM
Examiner.com - Jan. 29, 2016 | Original article
By Darryl Grant
Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner in his second state of the state address, on Wednesday, held to the same agenda from the playbook that he has used since his election to lead this solidly blue state. Focused on limits to collective bargaining, workmen’s compensation reform, and a pro business environment, they have little chance of being passed by a General Assembly that is solidly controlled by Democrats.
Rauner faces intense criticism for not agreeing to a budget for this fiscal year, unless his measures are agreed upon, and as a result, has garnered stinging criticism. Two of which are glaring: the state’s largest social services agency, Lutheran Social Services of Illinois, is ready to cut over 30 programs that serve 4,700 clients, due to lack of state funds, and 130,000 low-income college students who need tuition money awarded them through a state sponsored program, totalling $370 million.
These, and more unpaid bills, represent a $6 billion dollar deficit, a figure which is 12 percent of state spending, a significant increase from last year’s amount of $4 billion. As CNBC has noted, “Without a formal budget, Illinois has been limping along by extending parts of last year's spending plan, settling on piecemeal appropriations and battling out the impasse in the courts,” a pattern that is unsettling for residents, as well as politicians.
A long standing unfunded pensions deficit of $112 billion --- one-quarter of the Illinois GDP, and nearly three times that of state revenue, also has to be addressed. But, in his thirty minute address Rauner struck the first salvo by saying, "If we don't offer a competitive environment for businesses, pretty soon the unions won't have any more jobs to unionize and the trial lawyers won't have any more businesses to sue."
In a move that some see as stagecraft, or as a way to drive a wedge between the State Senate president, John Cullerton, and the powerful Speaker of the House, Michael Madigan, he gave almost voluble support to the former without mentioning the latter. All part of what his staff says is an effort to help the pension deficit crisis.
State Sen. Melinda Bush, of suburban Grayslake, in her statement, using blunter terms, said, “The problem this past year has not been with the governor’s initiatives, but with his actions,” and that “After a year that pulled the rug out from under seniors, children and the needy, I hope his call for cooperation is real. It is time for Illinois to move past partisan bickering.”
Read the original article in full here.