Walking into the top office in a state with the worst credit rating in the nation is no easy task, but that’s exactly what newly elected Governor Bruce Rauner faces as he takes on Illinois’ finances. It was no surprise that his first budget address as Governor was centered around significant spending cuts, to the tune of more than $6 billion. And some of those measures will hit pockets right here in town, starting with his proposed $600 million cut to local government funds.
“The impact of his proposal to the city would be a reduction to our revenues of about $6.9 million which obviously is a very significant impact,” said Doug Krieger, Naperville City Manager.
Especially as the city had already projected a $6 million deficit for the next fiscal year, without Rauner’s cuts. But some in the community think this imposed tightening of our belts could be a good thing.
“It’s time for us to live within our means so that we can freeze property taxes, so we don’t need to implement higher income taxes or tax on services, so that would cost more money, it’s a necessary cut unfortunately,” said Elizabeth Van Holt, Government Affairs Consultant with the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce.
Another top priority is pension reform.
“Our pension systems are not fully funded. They are $111 billion in the hole, the worst pension crisis in America,” said Governor Rauner.
Rauner proposes protecting any benefits earned to date, while immediately shifting any further work under the Tier Two Pension Plan, a less lucrative option. Those hired before 2011 could take a lump sum buyout and shift over to a 401k style plan, but would face a reduction in cost of living adjustments. Police and Firefighters would be the only groups exempt.
Though this section of his plan would take away from our educators, other parts would help give back to the education system as a whole.
“This budget also increases K-12 education funding by $300 million, helping school districts in our state that most need our support,” said Governor Rauner.
But those additional dollars could come at a cost to institutions of higher learning. The Governor proposed to slash their state funding by nearly $400 million, an action that would directly affect one local school, College of DuPage.
The Governor also proposed to spend $1.5 billion less on Medicaid, which provides dental and medical care to low income families.
Although these are sacrifices that would cause a drastic change in the state’s budget, Van Holt thinks that his direction is all for the greater cause.
“The governor said systematically in one sentence that it should be the mission and motivation for the general assembly, he said that it’s not about the election, it’s about the next generation and that’s what they’re going to have to remember,” said Van Holt.
Governor Rauner says that over the next 30 years, these proposed reforms will save the state over $100 billion. But his plans could be a tough sell to the democratic-controlled senate and house.
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