Democrats, who haven’t passed balanced budget in years, accuse Rauner of unbalanced budget plan


Is Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed budget balanced? Democrats have said “no” for the past two years and now are repeating the same charge, but Rauner defends his plans.

Illinois Democrats have spent the last few weeks saying Rauner has not done his constitutional duty of proposing a balanced budget. Even in their official response to Rauner’s budget address, state Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, made the claim.

“For the third year in a row, Governor Rauner appears to have failed in his constitutional duty to propose a balanced budget,” Harris said in a prepared statement.

Lawmakers also have a constitutional obligation to pass a balanced budget, something that the Democrat-controlled legislature has not done since well before Rauner became governor. In 2015, they passed a spending plan that was $4 billion out of balance, and they did not pass a budget at all in 2016.

Rauner, for his part, insists that each of his budget proposals were balanced.

“Two years ago, our administration proposed a balanced budget,” Rauner said in his annual budget address. “It contained more than $6 billion in cuts, spending only what the state could afford at current revenue. But the majority in the General Assembly simply ignored our budget proposal, didn’t discuss it, debate it or vote on it – just passed their own $4 billion out-of-balance budget. And so our current impasse began.”

According to Rauner’s budget office, 60 percent of spending is locked in to state law. Pensions, Medicaid rates, and other expenditures can only be amended by passing a new law or, in some cases, amending the state’s Constitution.

To balance his newly proposed budget, Rauner would ask to be given the ability to make cuts that are ingrained in law. He could only do this if the General Assembly passes the Unbalanced Budget Response Act, which would him that authority. Those cuts, coupled with savings in a potential budget agreement coming from the state Senate, would make up the approximately $4.6 billion difference.

An analyst with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago told members of the City Club of Chicago in July that, because of budget gimmicks that inflate expected revenue, Illinois hasn’t had a balanced budget in more than two decades.