Illinois lawmakers pass state budget, Rauner set for approval


Source: Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/MCT

Gov. Bruce Rauner declares victory on election night in 2014. Rauner said he will approve the state’s budget that passed the Illinois House on Thursday by a 97-18 vote.

Syd Stone, City Editor

After years of sharp partisan differences, Illinois senators overwhelmingly approved a new spending plan Thursday, paving the way for a full budget to be in place ahead of the next fiscal year for the first time since Gov. Bruce Rauner took office in 2015.

The Illinois House approved the $38.5 billion proposal by a 97-18 vote, following a landslide 54-2 victory in the Senate on Wednesday night. The margins indicate a shift in dynamics in Springfield, where Rauner focused on a stand-alone budget rather than a broader deal that would further his legislative agenda.

Instead, Rauner asked for a budget that does not spend more than the state takes in and requires no new taxes.

Rauner, who is up for reelection this fall, has been campaigning on a platform of trying to roll back the 4.95 percent income tax rate that was increased last year to end the budget impasse.

In a Thursday statement, Rauner said he plans to approve the proposal, calling it a “step in the right direction.”

“The Fiscal Year 2019 budget is the result of bipartisan effort and compromise,” he said. “We worked together to provide a budget to the people of Illinois that can be balanced, with hard work and continued bipartisan effort to deliver on the promises it makes. I’ll be taking action quickly to enact the Fiscal Year 19 budget into law.”

However, Rauner said, the proposal doesn’t include “much-needed debt paydown and reforms that would reduce taxes, grow our economy, create jobs and raise family incomes.”

State Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) said in a statement that the budget is “truly balanced” and keeps Illinois “spending within our means” while also implementing budget cuts and pension reform to “keep our state on a path toward fiscal stability.”

“It does all of this while still prioritizing the wellbeing of Illinois’ neediest residents,” she said in the statement. “It provides additional funding for child care assistance and sexual assault services, while rejecting the governor’s proposed cuts to community mental health and addiction services.”

Steans called the budget an “investment in our communities,” citing the funding included for cities and towns as well as social services.

Not included in the budget, however, is a backlog of unpaid bills totaling up to $6.6 billion, pension debt and Rauner’s call for retirement system changes.

State Comptroller Susana Mendoza said the plan was a step in the right direction.

“We can’t breathe easy yet,” she said in a statement. “But having this stability and predictability will at least allow us to breathe.”

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Twitter: @sydstone16