IL governor takes aim at pensions, healthcare costs in budget


In a written response to his budget address, the Illinois Federation of Teaches wrote, "hopefully for the last time, today Governor Bruce Rauner presented us with yet another budget built with fairy dust".

The general fund would total $37.9 billion, with 37.6 billion in spending, leaving a surplus of roughly $300 million.

It also seeks to cut $470 million from employee healthcare costs by removing that benefit from collective bargaining with unions.

"I think that question won't get answered until we see what future budgets look like, and again that's why we're somewhat nervous to see how all of this unfolds".

Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, who led his party's school funding efforts, says education stakeholders have indicated openness to a pension cost shift over the years, and points to its inclusion in the school funding reform law as evidence of their endorsement.

If the changes are made, Rauner says the state would be able to enact a almost $1 billion tax cut to tax payers and start rolling back the income tax rate. Rauner said they are "taxed out" and that higher tax rates can not fix a structural need to slow state spending.

Richard Wandling, the chair of the political science department, said this pension sharing idea is something that downstate schools and public universities will not be happy about. Rauner delivered what he calls a balanced budget, but critics are already saying that's false.

In his address, Rauner said lawmakers priority should be rolling back tax hikes the legislature passed a year ago.

But the Republican pointed out the boost depends on his proposals to shift the cost of teacher pensions to school districts and dictating the terms of employee health-insurance programs.

"We still don't know if he's going to get some of the reform initiatives through, whether it's from the pension cost shift [or] the selling of the Thompson Center", Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, who is challenging Rauner in the Republican primary for governor, told reporters in a press conference.

"Four years to me seems to be an awfully rapid shift", he said.

Wednesday, Governor Rauner said if school districts take over pensions, it could save the state $1.3-billion.

"Not only is his [fiscal 2019] budget plan balanced, but it does not include a single tax increase", Althoff said in a statement.

"Our state works best when it is working for the people of IL".

Phillips said another budget impasse is not likely, but the pension reform plan will be met with heavy debate and will not be agreed on by the General Assembly.

"If you separate the payment from accountability, there is no accountability", the Republican governor said in his budget address to the Legislature. "If the governor is finally honest in his desire to be a part of this process, he'll find willing partners in House Democrats".

Critics say while the idea might save money at the state level, local property taxes could go up to offset the change.

"We don't want to bring an additional burden to property taxpayers", she said.

Under the budget plan announced by Gov. Bruce Rauner on Wednesday, school districts and public community colleges and universities would have to pick up pension costs now covered by the state.