SPRINGFIELD, IL (KFVS/AP) - Illinois Republican Governor Bruce Rauner addressed a starkly divided majority Democratic General Assembly on Wednesday in his 2016 budget address.
State lawmakers have failed to reach a formal state budget since July 2015, which has cut off funding for hundreds of organizations in the state.
The Governor's speech comes at a time when Illinois is facing a $5 billion budget deficit and bill backlog that could reach $26 billion by 2020, the Associated Press reports.
The first term Governor said his state is headed in the wrong direction and called on lawmakers to work together for change.
"With my hand outstretched – with a genuine desire to compromise – with respect – I humbly ask you to join me in transforming our state for the better."
The Governor touched on several issues including pension reform, tax increases, job creation, workers compensation reform, and education.
He criticized the way Illinois has operated over the past two decades which he said led to "dismal economic performance," citing what the Governor calls unbalanced budgets, irresponsible spending and borrowing, and a lack of investment to state infrastructure.
"I won't support new revenue unless we have major structural reforms to grow more jobs and get more value for taxpayers," Rauner said. "I'm insisting that we attack the root causes of our dismal economic performance."
Rauner will support a pension reform plan that's been discussed by Illinois Senate President John Cullerton. However, the Governor said no bill has been introduced.
"Now is the time to set politics aside and do what is right for taxpayers. No more delays. No more stalling," Rauner said.
The first term Governor called on legislators to make education a top priority and to approve increased appropriations by 25 percent or $75 million for K-12 education.
"No matter how this session unfolds, send that education bill to my desk – clean – no games – and I'll sign it immediately," Rauner said.
ILLINOIS LEGISLATORS RESPOND:
Democratic Senator Gary Forby representing the 59th District in Southern Illinois responded to the Governor's address saying the situation has gone out of hand.
"Today we heard a budget address when we still don't have a budget for this year," Forby said in a statement. "How many places need to close, how many jobs need to be lost and how many people must lose vital services before this guy is willing to work with us to pass a budget?"
Forby cited several regional impacts that are costing jobs: closure of the World Shooting Complex in Sparta, cutting off funding to Southern Illinois University and closure of the Southern Illinois Arts and Artisan Center.
"This simple fact is, we passed a budget and he vetoed it," Forby said. "I am working hard to help keep Southern Illinois afloat; I wish he would do the same."
Republican Senator Dave Luechtefeld said the Governor is more than ready to compromise.
"The Governor offered two choices to Speaker Michael Madigan – either give the Administration the flexibility to make the cuts necessary to help balance the budget, or work on some compromises to expand the economy, which brings with it more jobs and more people contributing to the state's revenues," Luechtefeld said in a statement.
STATE INTEREST GROUPS RESPOND:
The Illinois Education Association (IEA) is a union that represents 130,000 educators from pre-kindergarten to higher education.
A Director with the IEA in Southern Illinois, Bret Seferian said the budget deadlock will have long-term negative effects on colleges and universities. He said the Governor's speech didn't tell him much that he hadn't hear before.
"There's really very little new in this. It's all that we expected, it is still 'I'm not going to do anything to put new revenue and to pass the budget until you meet my ideological demands.' What he calls his turnaround agenda."
The Illinois Retail Merchants Association released the following statement regarding Gov. Rauner's budget address: