7 Months Without A Budget, Ill. Gov. Rauner To Deliver State Address
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
We're also tracking a different sort of crisis in the state of Illinois. It has the dubious distinction of having the worst-funded pensions and lowest credit rating of any state. And a seven-month-long standoff between the Republican governor and Democratic legislature is not helping. There is no budget for the state of Illinois. And today the governor delivers his State of the State address. NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.
CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: A year ago, Illinois' new governor, Bruce Rauner, told lawmakers it was a fresh beginning for the state and a new partnership because voters had made it clear they wanted a bipartisan government where people worked to solve problems and get things done.
(SOUNDBITE OF STATE OF THE STATE ADDRESS)
BRUCE RAUNER: They don't want partisan bickering, political infighting or personal conflict to get in the way of serving the needs of the families of Illinois.
CORLEY: But from the beginning the relationship between the legislature and Rauner, one of a handful of GOP governors leading a Democratic state, was bitter. He's demanded changes he says will attract jobs like weaker unions. That's before he'll approve a tax hike Democrats want to use to help close a growing budget gap in the billions. Roosevelt University political scientist Paul Green says there's so much acrimony that it will be a big moment if the governor and the Democratic speaker of the house, Michael Madigan, even shake hands before the speech. And he says Rauner will have to talk about the budget stalemate.
PAUL GREEN: If he wants to be confrontational then he can, you know, do what he's been doing, attack the Democrats and especially Madigan. Number two, he could take the direction of, say, we have to get together and mean it. Or number three, it could just be a kind of, you know, I told you so.
CORLEY: The Chicago Sun-Times reports the governor will highlight a bipartisan pension plan along with education and criminal justice reforms. Social service providers whose funding is on hold say they'll want Rauner to pay more attention to the state's budget crisis. Speaking for a group called the Responsible Budget Coalition, Emily Miller says they don't know how the governor will describe the state of Illinois.
EMILY MILLER: But I can tell you that from where we are, Illinois is weak and getting weaker.
CORLEY: Some agencies have laid off workers or are closing because of the freeze in state funds. Thousands of university students are no longer getting state tuition grants. Miller says both Democrats and the governor must be willing to compromise.
MILLER: And I want him to say that he understands that if he continues down this road, he'll continue to dismantle the social service infrastructure of our state.
CORLEY: Like closing safe places for youth in dangerous neighborhoods. High school freshman Christian Washington attended a now-closed program for teenagers at a Chicago YMCA.
CHRISTIAN WASHINGTON: When I learned that the YMCA lost its teen funding, I felt so hurt. I was so worried about what was going to happen to my friends and me. Where would we go every day after school? These streets are so bad. And there are really no positive places for us to hang out and be safe, like at the Y.
CORLEY: In just a few weeks after the State of the State address, Governor Rauner is scheduled to deliver a new budget plan for Illinois. That's even though there's not a current plan in place. Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.