CHICAGO Feb 15 Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner
said on Wednesday he will entertain tax measures to address the
state's deep financial woes, but continued to tie his possible
support to nonbudgetary demands to spur economic growth.
In his third budget address to the legislature, the
Republican governor said a bipartisan Senate bill package aimed
at breaking the state's nearly 20-month budget impasse could win
"First and foremost: the final result must be a good deal
for taxpayers and job creators: a grand bargain that truly
balances the budget once and for all, and really moves the
needle when it comes to job creation," Rauner said.
He also tied an income tax hike proposed by Senate leaders
to a permanent instead of a two-year local property tax freeze
and said he was open to broadening Illinois' sales tax base.
Illinois is limping through a record-setting second
consecutive fiscal year without a complete budget due to an
ongoing feud between Rauner and Democrats who control the
legislature. A six-month fiscal 2017 budget expired on Dec. 31.
The Senate's so-called grand bargain consists of 12 bills
to raise income taxes by a third, borrow $7 billion to winnow
down a $12 billion record-setting pile of unpaid bills and
expand casino gambling.
It would also change how workers are compensated for
on-the-job injuries and impose term limits on legislative
leaders. A key bill to ease Illinois' $130 billion unfunded
pension crisis was rejected by the Senate earlier this month.
While Rauner delivered his speech, some Democrats taped
sheets of paper to their desks saying "Rauner Budget = Fake
News" and "Rauner Budget = Alternative Facts." Details of the
governor's proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1
were not immediately available.
A former private equity investor, Rauner won election after
pledging to use his business acumen to fix Illinois' collapsing
state finances. Instead, he is the first American governor in at
least 80 years to fail to enact a full-year operating budget.
An inability to secure a balanced budget with Democrats this
spring would carry potentially stinging political consequences
for Rauner because he risks entering his 2018 re-election effort
with a nearly threadbare list of legislative accomplishments,
including perhaps the most important trophy of all: passing a
Illinois' credit ratings, the lowest among the 50 states,
have been downgraded six times since Rauner took office in
January 2015. They are now just two notches above the junk
(Editing by Matthew Lewis)