Gov. Bruce Rauner signaled he is ready to jump on board with several parts of the proposed "grand bargain," yet remains staunchly opposed to other elements of it.
In a 37-minute budget address, the governor outlined his 2017 economic vision for the state, expressing a willingness to entertain the prospect of raising income taxes and expanding the state sales tax while rejecting the idea of slapping any new tariffs on food or medicine as has been proposed.
The governor arguably displayed more flexibility in trying to put an end to the state’s 18-month budget impasse than at any other time in his administration.
But even as Rauner tipped his hat to some of the compromise proposals brokered by Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) and Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont), there was clear-cut evidence of the deeply partisan divide that now grips the General Assembly.
“For decades, we spent money we didn’t have, borrowed and taxed,” Rauner told the group of legislators. “We drove job creators out of our state. Since 2000, America has added more than 14 million jobs, while Illinois has lost jobs. People have been voting with their feet, and more than 540,000 people have migrated out of Illinois.”
Much of what the governor appeared to be offering came with caveats. At one point, he told lawmakers he'll only sign off on a plan of more taxes if they come with "economic and regulatory changes that are significant enough to job creators to get excited about the future of Illinois."
That includes term limits on lawmakers and an overhaul of the workers' compensation system for employees hurt on the job, Rauner told the assembly.
“Term limits get job creators excited; passing term limits is one of more important things we can do to a send message to job creators,” he said. “This is now a question of political will. I know I’m willing.”
Rauner added that he wants to see a permanent freeze on property taxes, as opposed to the two years being proposed.
“First and foremost, the final result must be a good deal for taxpayers and job creators -- a grand bargain that fully balances the budget once and for all, and really moves the needle when it comes to job creation,” he said.
Rauner told lawmakers if Illinois had just kept pace with the national average over the last few years in terms of growing its economy, the state would have at least 650,000 more jobs than it does.
“We would have budget surpluses and we would not have any unpaid bills,” he said. “We would have good jobs in every community and we could have the best-funded schools in America.”