Rauner asks for executive authority in budget address

Stephanie Markham, Editor-in-Chief

Gov. Bruce Rauner called upon the legislature during his annual address Wednesday to put forth a budget that spends within the state’s means.

“Stop wasting time by putting forth spending bills you know will be vetoed again, again and again,” Rauner said. “The people of Illinois are tired of this pointless cycle of votes and vetoes.”

Rauner cited his elimination of the state’s $1.6 billion budget hole last year, but acknowledged that the current year was in its eighth month without a budget.

“Shocking? Yes. Acceptable? Not even close,” he said.

He told members of the General Assembly they have two options: to either give him authority to go forward with his proposed budget cuts or agree on reforms to reduce spending so the budget will be balanced.

“You’ve given emergency budget authority to governors in the past – other states have too – and no one can dispute that we have an emergency on our hands,” Rauner said.

Rauner said he proposed a budget one year ago with $6 billion in cuts, which was rejected by legislature, and he then vetoed the Democratic proposal that would overspend by $4 billion.

“The truth is, we haven’t had a truly balanced budget in Illinois for decades,” he said. “In ways both obvious and hidden, we’ve overspent, and raised taxes to cover it.”

Rauner did not mention higher education funding in his address, though he advocated for children’s education and said it would be the one area he would not cut if given budget authority. Instead, he would give it a 25 percent increase to $393 million.

“The greatest investment we can make as a community is in our children, and the earlier we begin, the bigger the return,” he said.

Rauner said he would sign a clean appropriations bill for early childhood and K-12 education as soon as it reaches his desk.

Richard Wandling, chair of the political science department, said Eastern has little to be optimistic about after Rauner’s budget address.

“While the governor proposes a substantial funding increase for early education and K-12 education, higher education unfortunately is treated differently,” Wandling said.

However, Wandling said he is hopeful that the Eastern students who rallied for higher education funding in Springfield Wednesday were able to make a difference.

“EIU students setting aside time from their classes and studies to spend the day in Springfield is testimony to their commitment to our fine institution,” he said.

SB2043, which proposes to spend $373 million for MAP Grants and about $324.4 million for community colleges, was sent to Rauner’s desk Tuesday.

According to an NBC Chicago article, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission estimates SB2403 would provide MAP assistance to 125,000 to 130,000 eligible students, though a spokesperson from Rauner’s office said he would veto it.

“With SB2403 freshly delivered to the governor, it can only help to send him a message that our students’ education (and) futures are at risk,” Wandling said. “In fact, if our students get the ear of the governor, they might be able to let him know that funding MAP can contribute greatly to his announced ‘cradle to career’ education policy approach.”

Paul McCann, interim vice president for business affairs, said SB2403 would benefit Eastern because MAP awards would be funded regardless of the type of institution.

“Certainly, we are hopeful that the governor might sign SB2043, but (we) have no knowledge of whether he will or not,” McCann said. “We are progressing with our plans for the continuing operation of the university.”

Rauner also proposed to compromise on his “turnaround agenda;” he said not every item would need to be enacted, but the legislature must pass some reforms.

“Even if we only implemented a portion of these recommendations, in a few years we’d have a balanced budget without a tax hike,” Rauner said. “And we’d have billions of dollars in surplus funds to invest in our schools, our human services and our infrastructure.”

Rauner also called upon Senate President John Cullerton to put forth his pension reform plan, adding that he agreed to approve it to save taxpayer money but has not seen a bill yet.

“Now is the time to set politics aside and do what is right for taxpayers,” Rauner said. “No more delays. No more stalling.”


Stephanie Markham can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]