Gov. Rauner signs Illinois budget, can now focus on reelection efforts

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Putting aside nearly three years of partisan bickering over taxes and spending, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed a budget bill passed by lawmakers last week. (WLS)

Governor Rauner is praising a bi-partisan effort that enabled him to sign a budget, on time, for the first time since he's been in office.

But he admits the spending package is far from perfect. He was joined by members of the budget negotiating teams and his top two Republican leaders at a signing ceremony Monday. The governor and lawmakers hailed the cooperative spirit that made the budget possible.

"This is a budget that was put together on a bipartisan basis, it is a compromise, it is not perfect, but is a good step in the right direction," said Governor Bruce Rauner.

"When it's just not on party dictating to another you really do get a better outcome, I believe that to my core," said Senator Heather Steans, D-Chicago.

"The men and women behind me are, reflect, I believe the attitude, a new attitude of Springfield," said Representative Jim Durkin, House Republican Leader.

The budget includes the $350 million approved last year as part of the historic school funding reform package, $50 million for early childhood education, and another $50 million towards a higher education scholarship program to stop the so-called brain drain. It also provides money for improving the Quincy Veterans home.

"The fact is if you read magazines all throughout this country, Illinois is a commentary of what not to be. That stops with this budget," said Senator Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park.

"It's better to have a budget than it is to not have a budget, it's not perfect, the state still has an enormous amount of work to do, there is still six billion dollars in unpaid bills," said Laurence Msall, President, Civic Federation.

He points out the budget counts on $240 million from the proposed sale of the Thompson Center. If that does not happen, cuts will be needed.

The budget does keep in place last year's 32 percent income tax hike which passed over the governor's veto. He said it was not disingenuous for him to campaign against it this fall, while supporting a budget that relies on it.

"If we passed the budget that I introduced, the spending plan that I introduced, we could begin to roll back that tax hike," Rauner said.

Rauner did say he was disappointed the budget did not do more to address the state's pension liabilities or back bills, but he said there had to be compromise on both sides.

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For the past several months the budget process has kept the Governor's reelection campaign somewhat on the back burner.

With budget deal done, Rauner can now focus on reelection efforts

Governor Rauner's signing of the budget bill allows him to shift gears and focus more on his reelection bid.

For the past several months the budget process has kept the Governor's reelection campaign somewhat on the back burner. But with a budget deal done on time this year, it takes away a potentially significant liability for Rauner as he looks ahead towards November.

"Today's a good day for the people of Illinois," Governor Rauner said.

But, if getting the budget done was good for the state, it may have been even better for the governor himself, giving him a big success to campaign on this fall.

"It was really important, more important than it being really important is the way it got done," said Thom Serafin, Political Strategist.

The budget deal got done through the kind of compromise that has been missing the past two years. And by the toned down rhetoric, evidenced by this comment from the governor about his political nemesis.

"I would personally like to thank Speaker Madigan," the Governor said before signing the budget. But the governor later found himself defending those comments.

"As part of the process, there's some days when criticism is warranted and some days when congratulations are very appropriate. Very happy to do both," Rauner said.

But with JB Pritzker adding another $25 million of his own money to his war chest just last week, voters can expect the campaign for governor to heat up.

In fact, a source close to Pritzker's campaign confirmed Monday night that the billionaire Democrat is willing to spend $2 for every $1 that Gov. Rauner spends.

"They need to resonate with the voters, and they're going to try and do that with the positive messages early on," Serafin said.

But if Rauner and Democrats showed a kinder gentler approach during the budget process it may not continue during this election cycle.

"Negative is going to fly, negative works and that's why it's going to be part of the campaign, there will be negative out there," Serafin said.

The governor now needs to give some attention to mending fences with the conservative wing of his party which may be hard to do with this budget because it lacks many of the reforms that are part of the governor's turnaround agenda. Rauner said he has not abandoned those reforms, but had to make compromises to get the budget deal done.
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politicsillinois budgetBruce RaunerSpringfieldChicagoLoop
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