SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Walking back from the brink of fiscal chaos, Illinois finally has a state budget after two years of operating without one.
While Gov. Bruce Rauner held the budget hostage for all that time to advance his own political agenda, Illinois faced crises on every front.
Road and infrastructure projects were halted, human services agencies shut their doors, state universities lost students and faculty and a $15 billion mountain of bills accumulated – leading Illinois dangerously close to becoming the first-ever “junk bond” state.
When legislators sent Rauner a budget-and-revenue plan that cut spending more than his own proposal and set the income tax at the rate he supported, he vetoed it anyway, only to have his veto overridden by a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers.
Overall, the bipartisan balanced budget passed by legislators is good news for public service workers in Illinois. Despite the governor’s immense pressure, he wasn’t able to weaken the collective bargaining rights of public employees.
While the budget fight is effectively over, the real battle in Illinois is just beginning. Rauner is now running full-tilt for re-election, hiring the head of a right-wing think tank he helped fund to be his chief of staff, and dumping more than $50 million of his own money into his campaign account.
Since before he was elected, Rauner has seen Wisconsin as his model: A state where public employees have been stripped of their rights, employee health care costs have soared, wages are stagnant and workplace protections are almost nil.
“We have a different vision for Illinois,” said AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch. “We believe working people should have the freedom to form strong unions, public employees can continue to provide the vital services that our communities rely on, and that tax system should ensure that the wealthy pay their share.”