In contrast to the scattershot, whiplash approach to state financing that Democrat administrations have adopted over the last decade, Gov. Bruce Rauner outlined a comprehensive, philosophical approach to state governance on Feb. 18 during his first budget address.
Calling it a “turnaround budget,” Gov. Rauner said his Fiscal Year 2016 fiscal plan reduces spending while still funding essential government services. The Governor emphasized that the budget is balanced and intends to structurally reform state government, without relying on a tax increase or financial gimmicks. The measure would also include $500 million to pay down the state’s unpaid bill backlog. As a result, Gov. Rauner said his proposal “improves public safety, provides care for our most vulnerable, boosts funding for education, and restructures the core costs of state government that are holding us back.”
Stressing that the state must live within its means like hard-working families across the state, Gov. Rauner said his budget was an “honest” proposal that guides Illinois down a “responsible path” after more than a decade of fiscal mismanagement and spending beyond the state’s means.
Of note, the budget boosts funding for education, which was reduced during Gov. Quinn’s Administration. Gov. Rauner’s budget proposal reflects his commitment to education, increasing funding for early childhood and pre-K-12 education by $325 million. The spending plan also promotes public safety and criminal justice reforms, directing more state resources to corrections and juvenile justice to improve conditions in state prisons and reduce the number of offenders in Illinois.
Saying fundamental reforms are essential before revenue increases can be discussed, the Governor emphasized that waste and inefficiencies are rampant throughout state government.
Specifically, Gov. Rauner announced his intent to reduce Medicaid waste and fraud by re-implementing components of the 2012 bipartisan Medicaid reform law that was later disassembled by the Quinn Administration. The Governor said that re-instituting the SMART Act and pursuing redetermination efforts will save hundreds of millions of dollars, and ensure the program stays solvent and able to care for the state’s most vulnerable and needy residents.
However, reinvigorating the state’s economy is the “real answer to our challenges,” said the Governor. He stressed that a booming economy, reliant on small businesses and entrepreneurial innovators choosing Illinois as a home base, is critical to economic growth. Gov. Rauner specifically called for workers’ compensation reform and reducing red tape as a way to help Illinois’ employers.
Unlike previous Governors who frequently opted to postpone their budget address—eight of the last twelve budgets have been delayed—Gov. Rauner outlined his fiscal plan for Illinois on the date established by law. Lawmakers will now review the Governor’s budget, and begin working with the administration to negotiate the state’s next fiscal blueprint.