Newly elected Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) called for up to $1.5 billion in cuts to state programs in order to balance out the budget without raising taxes.
The cuts would largely affect Medicaid and pension programs, two well-known expensive entities that have caused headaches for many governors across the country.
The budget gap of $6 million was created by Rauner’s predecessor, Democrat Pat Quinn. Rauner also partially blamed the former governor for the financial crisis, saying his budget plan would end “the irresponsible and reckless practices of the past.”
Rauner’s budget has also hurt his relationship with Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel (D), who is facing a close primary election this month. While Rauner’s plan -- which would equate to $1.5 billion in budget cuts -- prevents millions of dollars from going to the mayor’s office, the governor recently said that he would likely be discussing various options with Emanuel, stating that he has a “very close working relationship with many Democratic leaders throughout the state.”
Having a good relationship with Illinois Democrats is beneficial to everyone, since the party holds supermajorities in both state houses. Also, Rauner faces much pressure nationally, as he is a Republican elected to the position of Governor in President Obama’s home state of “deep-blue” Illinois.
Specifically, Rauner’s plan would cut income taxes in cities, villages and towns throughout the state, which would create a loss of over $200 million to the city of Chicago to fund services.
Due to the overcrowded and expensive pension system, in debt by $111 billion, Illinois has the worst credit rating in the country. In order to make these pension payments, higher education programs and public school funding will take a cut in their budgets. Rauner's plan to slash public services has been criticized by many since he also opted not to renew a 1.25% income tax surcharge this year. Renewing the tax and retaining the extra revenue from it could have led to far less drastic cuts to many public service budgets. Rauner, a multimillionaire, will personally pay $750,000 less in taxes this year alone by not renewing the tax.
Democrats, on the other hand, want to raise taxes to balance the budget. While the state income tax recently dropped from 5 percent to 3.75 percent, Democrats in the state Senate have proposed higher income taxes on those making $1 million or more and a mix of tax hikes and spending cuts to alleviate the financial burdens many communities face.
Democrats have expectedly criticized the governor’s plan, specifically his cuts to Medicaid. State Rep. Lou Lang (D) said: “He’s devastated health care for the poor. To him, Medicaid is a bunch of numbers but this is a health care program for the poorest of the poor in Illinois.”
State Senator Mattie Hunter (D) also weighed in, saying, “He’s putting lives and livelihoods at jeopardy by treating our state’s most vulnerable people like burdens.”