“Dire circumstances call for drastic measures” -- a sobering message that resonated throughout Illinois as Governor Bruce Rauner’s offered his first budget blueprint.
I believe the Governor’s speech was exactly the “reset” that Illinois needs to begin making dramatic changes in how we operate state government. His budget proposal will start the conversation we are long overdue in having. I and my Senate Republican colleagues are anxious to work with the Governor as he implements his plan to turn Illinois around.
Following 12 years of one-party rule, Illinois’ fiscal house is in shambles. Financial gimmicks, borrowing and tax increases have been cobbled together to grow government and expand services. At the same time, opportunities to streamline, eliminate duplication and cut costs were ignored or rejected. The world has changed all around Illinois government, but its approach has remained the same – without success. We are out of step with other states, bogged down and financially drained.
Governor Bruce Rauner was elected by the people of Illinois to put an end to the business as usual. His first budget presentation is balanced, without relying on tax increases or financial gimmicks. He’s proposing a comprehensive, philosophical approach to state governing, instead of the scattershot, whiplash approach taken in years past as Illinois lurched from crisis to crisis.
It will not come without sacrifice. In order to dramatically change the way we do business, tough decisions will have to be made. I think it is what the people of Illinois are expecting from their leaders.
The Governor’s FY16 budget proposal is the first step in that process. Governor Rauner laid out a budget the taxpayers can afford for the coming fiscal year. He made clear his priorities with increases in elementary and secondary education funding, a focus on public safety and care for our most vulnerable. He made clear his plans to make structural changes, reform government employee pensions and lighten our business regulatory burden to create jobs and build our economy.
It’s so far been met with some over-the-top rhetoric and false claims. But I am hopeful when the people of Illinois and the lawmakers who represent them actually dig in, they will see the opportunity we have to make changes that will make numbers work.
Governor Rauner’s budget blueprint reduces state spending on universities by less than six percent of their budgets. Instead of shouting that tuition will go up, we need to focus on forcing the universities to trim administrative and bureaucratic costs.
When faced with budget cuts that eliminate some services, we need to recognize those services could be available through other programs. We can eliminate waste and fraud in Medicaid and other programs paid for by the taxpayers with aggressive management. We can save taxpayers money with criminal justice reforms to reduce the number of offenders filling our prisons. As cities clamor to restore Governor Rauner’s proposed spending reductions, we can instead encourage consolidation and sharing of services.
The possibilities are endless if we demand more value for our taxpayers and seize this opportunity to change how state government operates.
We must, however, avoid the all-too-easy solution of raising taxes first. Unless and until state government cuts its costs and reforms its practices, tax increases cannot be on the table for discussion. We cannot – and must not – ask the hard-working families of Illinois to pay more for a bloated bureaucracy and mismanaged government.
Governor Rauner has submitted his budget blueprint to the people of Illinois. Now your representatives in the General Assembly will review that budget, hear public comment, make any recommendations for change and hopefully, work together to achieve our common goals.
I and the Senate Republican Caucus are committed to bipartisan cooperation and a collaborative process in building a budget for the coming fiscal year that provides our core services and funds our priorities.
But even more importantly, we are committed to making the changes necessary to move Illinois toward fiscal recovery.