Illinois Gov.-elect Rauner says he's surprised by details of 'worse than discussed' budget

Government And Institutions Associated Press

As lawmakers reconvene for the final week of their annual veto session, Republican Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner said Tuesday at the state Capitol that Illinois' budget condition is even worse than was previously discussed.

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The venture capitalist from Winnetka is meeting with state budget experts and "getting into the hard facts on the budget right now," he said.

"Every time we look under the hood, look at different departments, look at different issues, the problems, the deficits, the overspending is more significant than has been discussed in the past. We want to make sure we understand it," Rauner said.

Meanwhile, lawmakers were still negotiating over a proposal to raise the state's minimum wage on the same day that the Chicago City Council raised the city's to $13, raising the possibility of two competing rates.

Rauner had asked that lawmakers take no serious action until after his inauguration in January.

Democrats who had pushed to extend the state's income tax increase in May viewed Rauner's comments as a bit of a "welcome to Springfield" moment for the newcomer who showed he's catching up with details of the $35.7 billion budget approved by lawmakers in the spring that doesn't have enough money to cover agency expenses.

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"Governor Quinn proposed a budget in March that all three bond rating agencies praised as a good way for the state to move forward, pay its bills and meet its obligations. The General Assembly instead passed a budget that the governor said at the time was "incomplete," said Quinn's budget director Abdon Pallasch.

Rauner, who will be taking elected office for the first time, had campaigned on a pledge of lowering taxes.

Come January, if lawmakers don't approve new revenue — such as extending the tax increase that Rauner opposed — the state will face a roughly $5 billion budget hole next year. That could force layoffs, facility closures and massive program cuts. The state has warned that several agencies, including the Department of Corrections and Human Services, are set to run out of money if supplemental funding isn't approved.

Rauner says he plans to "discuss solutions in the coming months."

His visit came as lawmakers were discussing the proposal increasing the state's minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2017. Chicago aldermen voted Tuesday on their own measure, concerned that lawmakers would pass legislation restricting its ability to set a higher rate than the state's.

Rauner has said he would support a minimum wage hike, but only paired with other economic reforms.

Lawmakers could also move this week to make permanent changes to statewide election law approved for the Nov. 4 election, and vote on a measure to establish a statewide health insurance marketplace.

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Online: www.ilga.gov

The minimum wage legislation is SB68.

The election legislation is SB0172.

The health insurance legislation is SB636.