Wednesday, February 18, 2015

EXTRA: How many municipal enemies did Gov. Rauner make w/ budget talk?

As one who has written about municipal government in many places across Illinois throughout the years, I can’t help but think that many mayors, aldermen, councilmen, trustees and other local government officials made their dentists very happy while watching Gov. Bruce Rauner present his state budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year.

Because I can envision many municipal officials grinding and gnashing their teeth while seething with anger from listening to the governor place part of the blame for the state’s financial problems on them.

BECAUSE I KNOW I have heard them say on many occasions how the reason they’re having financial problems is because of the state – which either cuts the amount of money made available to them and/or makes payment on state aid so delayed!

Rauner on Wednesday told the General Assembly that one of the ways he plans to balance out the state’s budget for the 2016 fiscal year (beginning July 1) is to reduce the amount of money the state transfers to local governments.

Rauner would have people think that such transfers have increased by 42 percent during the past decade, and that local governments are using that money to build up stacks of cash – he said local governments have $15 billion in cash reserves currently.

Yet in recent years, I have heard many municipal officials talk about how to balance out their own local appropriations ordinances – and one of the solutions they come up with is invariably to ask for more funds for state government.

EITHER BY SEEKING new grant programs they can apply to, or by counting on more from the existing grants they already get each year. Which means there are going to be many municipal officials who wind up in deep trouble financially if the state can’t kick in what they’re hoping for.

Based on the budget address Rauner presented Wednesday (an actual state budget won’t be voted on by the Legislature until late May), there is one set of local people who might be pleased – the school boards.

For the governor presented an image where public education programs will be the one aspect of state funding that won’t get slashed to bits. Although there will be other local programs and agencies that will be cut, and in some cases decimated.

All in all, this is a plan that is bound to irritate the people who work in City and Village halls all across the state. Although it’s very likely that the Democratic Party leadership of the General Assembly will find ways to blunt the harsh talk that Rauner offered up on Wednesday.

NOW PART OF the reason the state is facing particularly tough finances is because the General Assembly never went along with the desire of former Gov. Pat Quinn to extend an increase in the state income tax.

I got my own amusement on Wednesday from the anonymous state legislator (I didn’t see who it was, but it came from the portion of the legislative chambers where Democrats sit) who burst out into raucous applause when Rauner said, “Some in the General Assembly are eager to discuss new revenue…,” before he could finish saying, “but before revenue can be discussed, reform is essential.”

A line that caused massive applause from Republican legislators!

Rauner’s “turnaround budget” (as he described it) included a plea for all the anti-organized labor measures that the new governor has been calling for, along with a lot of other measures likely to be opposed by the Legislature’s Democratic majority.

ALTHOUGH IT SHOULD be noted that the financial shortfall that exists in this fiscal year’s budget (because of the disappearance of the income tax increase) was not directly addressed – other than Rauner saying that his aides and legislative aides have been talking about the issue, and that a solution is forthcoming.

In short, the “real” news that could have come from Wednesday’s budget address is on hold. The state still has a financial hole that can’t be ignored. The partisan rhetoric continues to be spewed!

In the end, we all lose.


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