Rauner Offers Tax-Hike Guidance To End Illinois Budget Stalemate

After 20 months without a state budget, Gov. Bruce Rauner used Wednesday's budget address to point out progress on a "grand bargain" that has been put forward in the Illinois Senate.

In his third budget address to the legislature, the Republican governor said a bipartisan Senate bill package aimed at breaking the state's almost 20-month budget impasse could win his support.

IL is limping through a record-setting second consecutive fiscal year without a complete budget due to an ongoing feud between Rauner and Democrats who control the legislature.

The nation's third-largest public school system is struggling with pension payments that will jump to $733 million this fiscal year from $676 million in fiscal 2016, as well as drained reserves and debt dependency.

Saying Illinois state government has created a funding imbalance, in part, by requiring the Chicago Public Schools to divert money from education to fund worker pensions, when it places no similar demands on the state's other school districts, CPS has now asked the courts to step in and force the state to rewrite its school funding rules.

Even before Rauner's budget address before a joint session of Illinois House and Senate, there was controversy.

About 90% of Chicago Public Schools students are children of color, while the aggregate population of the rest of IL public schools are predominantly white.

The complaint also referenced the different pension funding obligations imposed on CPS, as "Illinois does not require any other school district in IL to make pension contributions at levels even remotely comparable to those it requires of CPS".

For 40 years, IL courts generally have ruled that arguments to change how public schools are funded should play out before the IL legislature, not in the state's courtrooms.

In order to maintain a balanced budget, Rauner asked for pension reforms that will slow growth in the state's longterm obligations.

Rauner said he's open to a tax increase, but only if some of his priorities are approved. That lawsuit has languished in Cook County Court since 2008.

Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert Jr. said he was encouraged by Rauner's call for compromise.

  • Larry Hoffman