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On Sunday, the Daily Herald published an Op-Ed from Governor Rauner praising the bipartisan success of passing the budget, and he called on lawmakers to keep the momentum going by tackling even bigger reforms in the future.
The passage of Illinois’ bipartisan budget plan has been greeted with applause on both sides of the aisle. This accomplishment is a testament to the power of negotiations and bipartisan compromise.
However, we cannot rest on our laurels. It’s the time to build on this bipartisan accomplishment to tackle job-killers like pension costs, high property taxes, unfunded mandates and the backlog of unpaid bills.
To address these issues, we must understand how a balanced FY19 budget became possible. Federal tax reform and regulatory relief boosted our economy, bringing higher than expected tax receipts. Bipartisan negotiations led to modest pension reform that will save $445 million this year while reducing some of the state’s long-term liability. We saved $1 billion by aggressively managing state agency spending and getting legislative Democrats to cancel nearly $500 million in new spending.
To keep this budget balanced, we must break the notoriously bad budget management habits of longtime politicians who have structured our government to benefit insiders rather than the people we serve. This is where bipartisan momentum is critical. Republicans and Democrats came together this session to reduce spending, put more money toward education, pass modest pension reform, boost infrastructure and support human services.
Now, we have to keep working with our partners in the legislature to manage our revenue and spending to keep the budget balanced.
Educating our children is the most important thing we do as a state. It has been my top investment priority for many years. Prior to our taking office in 2015, Illinois suffered from years of cuts in education funding. Our administration led the effort to create a more fair and equitable funding system and put significantly more money into schools every year. The evidence-based formula we enacted last summer is fully funded. That’s $350 million in new K-12 spending for FY19, a $1.4 billion increase in funding since 2015. Our tuition tax credit scholarship program is a historic achievement and helps needy students attend the school of their choice. We added $50 million for Early Childhood Education. That’s up $200 million since we came to office.
There is $25 million in new money for higher education in FY19 and $25 million for our AIM HIGH merit-based scholarship program that can be matched by universities to help college students to stay in Illinois.
With this budget, we made Illinois a national leader in adoption support. For the first time, Illinois now has a $5,000 tax credit for parents who are adopting, helping more children to find good homes with loving parents.
We also want to thank the legislature for sharing our commitment to our veterans, budgeting $53 million for continued improvements and first-year construction costs for a new Illinois Veterans Home at Quincy.
Finally, we’re moving forward with the seed support for the Illinois Innovation Network and the Discovery Partners Institute for the University of Illinois. This public-private partnership between the state’s great research universities, businesses and venture capital sources could make Illinois the next Silicon Valley, worth billions in new annual job-producing economic growth.
Even with these important accomplishments, our fiscal future remains challenging. To keep our budgets balanced, it is essential we grow our economy at a rate faster than we increase government spending. What we did this session is a step in that direction. But there is still a long way to go.
Had the legislature enacted the budget we proposed in February, including the meaningful pension reform, we could deliver a $1.5 billion surplus. This surplus would have allowed us to roll back the tax hike, pay down debt and invest in our infrastructure.
These goals are no less critical today than they were last week or last year. Pension debt and unpaid bills remain yokes on our finances. To get the economy really rolling, we need to provide property tax relief, ease mandates on schools and local government, and cut the regulatory burden on job creators.
We admire and applaud the work of the legislature on this budget. The bipartisan efforts are encouraging, and we hope they are founded on a real desire from all sides for change. By building on bipartisan momentum to drive reform, we can create a better future for our children and grandchildren.