Righter, Phillips: We want a balanced budget from the governor, more cuts could be coming

Analicia Haynes, Managing Editor

State rep. Reggie Phillips,R-Charleston, and state Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, said the thing they want the governor to do from here on out is propose a balanced budget, after listening to another State of the State Address from Gov. Bruce Rauner Wednesday.

Phillips said if Rauner comes out with another budget no one will agree on, then that will signify more “Springfield politics,” because it will go nowhere in the House or Senate.

“Don’t waste my time,” he said. “(Rauner needs to) come out with a legitimate budget that he knows that the Democrats will start to work with us on, otherwise we’re going to be in this turmoil.”

Phillips said Rauner and the entire General Assembly should focus on not only balancing a budget, but making sure the bills are paid.

“Somewhere down the line, he’s going to have to cut out $1.5 billion dollars (from the current budget) and I believe that’s what he’ll do which will balance the budget,” Phillips said.

Righter and Phillips said Rauner has not given any hints as far as what will actually be proposed next month and what might be cut.

Although Rauner may not have mentioned higher education in his State of the State Address Wednesday afternoon, representative Reggie Phillips and Dale Righter said universities, particularly Eastern, should not be concerned by this.

Righter said the speech itself is not as important as the upcoming budget address on Feb. 14.

“(The State of the State Address) is the governor’s opportunity to talk about whatever he wants to talk about…the budget address is the meat and potatoes and then underlying the budget address is when the governor publishes his budget book, which is his proposal on how he thinks we should spend the money in the coming fiscal year,” Righter said. “That’s the one we need to pay attention to.”

Phillips said he thinks higher education will receive close to $1.8 billion in funding because of the general atmosphere in the legislature.

However, both Righter and Phillips said there will still have to be cuts, with Phillips saying that if these cuts are fair across the board, then he agrees with them.

Righter said cutting funding for higher education is never fair, but there may be necessary cuts in the future.

However, he said he does not know what that number is, as it is affected by “a thousand variables.”

Despite his concern, Phillips said he has a positive feeling that the legislature will get the state put back together.

Righter said there are two basic ways to change the balance of a budget; either increase revenue or reduce expenditures to try to close a gap.

“That (income) tax increase last year was a major tax increase, and there’s not going to be another this year,” Righter said.

“So we are left with two options — either reduce spending to balance the budget or keep spending the same or spend more and go back into deficit spending again.”

Though Righter said it is a possibility that the governor’s proposal next month might not promote compromise at first, he hopes both sides of the aisle can meet somewhere in the middle.

“He came in with the idea that his 44 pieces in his ‘Turnaround agenda’ was going to be able to move in his first term,” Phillips said, attributing Rauner’s need to implement his “Turnaround agenda’ to him being a decisive business man who is used to getting things done quickly.

“I think he’s learned a lot, and now I think he now understands that we have to work with the Democrats… now you’ve got to compromise.”

Analicia Haynes can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]