Illinois' new Republican governor on Wednesday will pitch a plan for fixing the state's budget mess that includes deep cuts to Medicaid and higher education and a new plan for reducing pension costs, according to three lawmakers with knowledge of the proposal.
Gov. Bruce Rauner is set to deliver his first budget address since campaigning on a pledge to reduce taxes and get state spending under control and beating a Democratic incumbent.
The three legislators, briefed on details of the plan discussed in a Tuesday meeting between Rauner and legislative leaders, told The Associated Press that the governor will recommend cutting Medicaid by $1.5 billion and reducing funding for higher education by nearly $400 million, or 31 percent. They said he'll also propose reducing state aid to local governments and ask lawmakers to approve a new pension reform plan he says will save Illinois $2.2 billion.
The lawmakers spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to pre-empt Rauner's budget address. Rauner's spokesman declined to comment.
Now keep in mind cuts to Illinois's pension systems have already resulted in the state having the most underfunded pension system in the country, and Illinois having the worst credit rating of all 50 states. The state is in a six billion dollar hole, much like California was in 2008. But cutting education, pensions, and Medicaid isn't going to make that any better, and the Democrats holding big majorities in the legislature aren't going to put up with Rauner's crap for much longer.
House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat who was briefed by Rauner, said the governor warned he's prepared to deliver some "tough medicine."
Madigan and other Democrats want to raise Illinois' income tax rate, which dropped on Jan. 1, to avoid some spending cuts. But he said Rauner indicated he won't propose raising taxes.
"I don't think you can cut your way out of the problem," Madigan said. "I think you need some additional revenue, and that'll be my position (Wednesday)."
So we'll see which side wins. I'm betting it's not Rauner.