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Illinois Governor's Budget Plan Just the Ticket or a Huge Problem?

03/26/2015 12:26 pm ET | Updated May 26, 2015

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposed budget plan for the 2016 fiscal year includes heavy cuts and has garnered both criticism and praise.

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton has been unsparing in his criticism of Gov. Bruce Rauner's budget plan.

He says while the governor calls for "shared sacrifice," the budget puts the entire burden of cuts onto the middle class, the poor and the disabled.

From Cullerton:

Illinois faces monumental fiscal challenges. But before we decide that we want to be just like Indiana or Wisconsin -- or Kansas or Mississippi, for that matter -- let's take a deep breath and think about what kind of state we want to live in.

We have to fix our state's finances, but how we fix them matters. Let's start with two principles: An agreement that all segments of society should share the inevitable sacrifices, and an agreement that any solution has to be bipartisan.

Gov. Bruce Rauner himself voiced these principles in his Feb. 18 budget. Rather than being an extension of his shared sacrifice rhetoric, the budget takes direct aim at Illinois's middle class.

Rauner proposed slashing college funding by one-third. He would cut funding to communities by more than half a billion dollars. He shrinks public transit funding by almost 40 percent. And he amputates millions from programs that keep seniors in their homes.

Those of you planning to send your children to state universities, get ready for big tuition hikes. Those of you who take public transportation to work, get ready to pay more for less frequent service. That's right, we're going to make it harder for people to get educated and get to work. And this is supposed to make us more prosperous and competitive.

The pain will not be confined to the middle class. The elderly, the sick, and the addicted will all take it on the chin. So will Lauretta Schaefer, a 20-year-old student at Illinois State. Lauretta's mother, a substance abuser, abandoned her when she was a toddler. But Lauretta survived and thrived. She's now going to college thanks to a scholarship from the Department of Children and Family Services. Under Rauner's plan, Lauretta's scholarship program, her path to self-sufficiency, is eliminated.

(Read the rest at Reboot Illinois.)

But President and CEO Todd Maisch of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce says the agenda is just what the state needs.

Maisch writes:

The Illinois Chamber hosted Gov. Bruce Rauner and employers from Central Illinois last week in a town hall meeting. The purpose: To hear directly from the governor what he intends to accomplish and to consider his challenge to employers to help turn Illinois around.

I believe the vast majority of participants in the event came away energized to do what they can to support a new direction for our state. They responded positively to his challenge to employers to amplify his statements about the need for a real change of course. To be a larger voice on behalf of fixing state finances, improving the business climate to grow the economy, and returning control of state government to voters and away from government unions.

To be sure, most employers can find something not to like in the governor's proposals and recent FY16 budget plan. Examples include a possible service tax, cuts to workforce training programs, reductions in Medicaid rates to providers. However, the Illinois Chamber asks every employer to consider what our state and economy will look like in five years without a dramatic departure from the policies that led to the unsustainable status quo. The fact is, some short-term pain is the price we will all have to pay for more than a decade of failed leadership in Springfield.

The governor also pointed to states that succumbed to the "tax first, reform later" arguments of the public employees unions and others dependent upon state spending. The taxes always seem to arrive -- along with their hit on the economy - but the discussion of real reform never seems to come around again. We simply can't afford that approach in Illinois and expect any change in our fortunes.

(Read the rest at Reboot Illinois.)

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