House Dems proposing $800M stopgap budget; Rauner opposed


Ryan Michalesko

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks with members of the media Friday, Aug. 26, 2016, following his visit to Carbondale High School’s Rebound program. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

The Democrat-controlled Illinois House is preparing another stopgap spending plan that would allocate more than $800 million to higher education and human services.

A House committee Wednesday afternoon approved the plan that taps into two special state funds intended to help education and human services. The vote split along party lines. The bill now goes to the full House.

The two funds get a small part of income tax receipts as they are received by the state and are constantly replenished.


“We have $800-some million dollars sitting in a bank account gathering dust, doing nothing, that could go out the door immediately to help our communities, to help seniors, to fund our higher education system,” said Rep. Greg Harris of Chicago, a top House Democrat budget negotiator.

He also said the money could help stem the flood of job losses in both higher education and human services because the state hasn’t had a budget in nearly two years.

The plan directs $559 million to higher education and $258 million to human services.

That spending includes $287 million for grants for needy college students, $36 million for community college operating costs and $50 million for community college career and technical education to prevent a potential loss of federal funds.

Harris said the human services spending would cover a wide variety of programs that are not covered by various court orders and consent decrees. It includes money for domestic violence shelters that were inadvertently left out of a stopgap spending plan that was passed last year and expired Dec. 31.

Other spending would cover homeless youth, autism, senior meals and other programs.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner issued a statement via Facebook criticizing the plan.


“We can either keep going down the path of broken budgets, stopgap spending, higher taxes and disappearing jobs or we can demand a truly balanced budget, job creation and property tax relief,” Rauner said. “Stopgap spending plans do nothing to balance the budget. They don’t grow jobs, they don’t freeze property taxes, and they don’t fix our broken system.”

In the two-minute message, he repeated his pledge not to support another stopgap measure without “something real and lasting to protect taxpayers.”

“We cannot accept a stopgap without a permanent property tax freeze to protect the hardworking taxpayers of Illinois,” Rauner said.

Harris said he hadn’t seen the video “because I am busy legislating.”

“It is the typical quid pro quo with the moving target,” he said when it was described to him.

Republicans on the House Human Services Appropriations Committee complained they had little time to review the bill before Wednesday’s hearing. They also said the only true solution to the state’s financial problems is a permanent budget, while the stopgap only covers spending for those services until the end of June.

“Why thrown in the towel on a balanced budget?” asked Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon.

“We all share a commitment to a full budget,” Harris said. “There may not be entities around to see us get to the big picture.”


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