Democrats rip Rauner for playing politics with budget

SPRINGFIELD-- The Latest on Gov. Bruce Rauner's budget address (all times local):Democrats are criticizing Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner for deflecting blame for Illinois' financial crisis and putting his political agenda ahead of resolving the state budget...

Democrats rip Rauner for playing politics with budget

SPRINGFIELD-- The Latest on Gov. Bruce Rauner's budget address (all times local):

Democrats are criticizing Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner for deflecting blame for Illinois' financial crisis and putting his political agenda ahead of resolving the state budget impasse.

The Republican repeated his calls for pro-business legislation during his budget address Wednesday. He says the best way to improve the economy is to pass measures such as legislative term limits and workers' compensation reform.

Democratic state Sen. Tom Cullerton says it was Rauner's third budget speech with "no real numbers." He says Illinois needs solutions, "not political buzz words." Sen. Daniel Biss says Rauner ducked responsibility.

But Republicans were complimentary.

Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (rah-DOH'-nyoh) says Rauner demonstrated his willingness to work with both parties.

Radogno says she and other Republicans want a bipartisan compromise that's "a good deal for the taxpayers."

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Gov. Bruce Rauner put his annual budget speech on a short hold because of problems with the teleprompter.

The Republican was speaking Wednesday when the teleprompter where the speech is displayed for him to read apparently stopped working.

A lawmaker handed Rauner a printed copy. But Rauner said he didn't have his reading glasses and "I'm a little old for this type."

The delay lasted for several minutes, during which Rauner asked if anyone had "a good story" and told the audience he wouldn't sing because he's no good at it.

After turning briefly to Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, Rauner said Madigan had quipped: "It's the Russians." That remark drew laughter from across the chamber.

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Gov. Bruce Rauner says Illinois cannot get a handle on spending until lawmakers take on "automatic spending categories" such as pensions and Medicaid.

The Republican gave his third budget address Wednesday and called for a "hard cap" on spending to force frugality.

But Rauner pointed out that more than 60 percent of the state's general revenue is "locked up." It is spoken for in contributions to state-employee pensions, Medicaid, health care for low-income residents and others.

The state's pension programs are $130 billion out of whack. Lawmakers have attempted for years to reduce pension benefits. But courts have ruled against the plans.

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Democrats in the Illinois Legislature erupted in laughter at Gov. Bruce Rauner's statements that he proposed a balanced budget in 2015 and that the impasse isn't about "assigning blame."

The Republican is giving his annual budget address Wednesday, as lawmakers approach two years without agreement on a spending plan.

Rauner proposed a budget in 2015 that went nowhere in the Legislature.

Rauner says it was balanced. But Democrats argue it relied on billions in gimmicks, including counting on savings from items such as pension reform which would not have been immediately realized even if it survived a court challenge.

Democrats also laughed loudly when Rauner said he's not pointing fingers. Rauner frequently blames Democrats for the situation and heavily funds Illinois Republican Party attacks on lawmakers.

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Gov. Bruce Rauner says Illinois lawmakers of both parties agree for the first time that the state needs regulatory change as well as reduced spending.

He says "on this, we all now agree. And that is real progress."

Rauner began his third budget address Wednesday by praising bipartisan Senate negotiations attempting to break a two-year deadlock on an annual spending plan.

Rauner has insisted on business-friendly changes such as restrictions on workers' compensation payouts as part of a budget agreement. Democrats have said he should agree with them on the way to reduce a multibillion-dollar deficit first.

But the Senate plan addresses workers' compensation and other Rauner priorities such as a property tax freeze. It also would raise income taxes.

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Gov. Bruce Rauner will reject an increased sales tax on food and medicine and demand a permanent property-tax freeze in his third budget announcement.

The Republican also wants lawmakers to cap spending to force frugal state spending. The Associated Press obtained in advance excerpts of the speech scheduled for noon Wednesday.

The first-term governor will offer a glimpse of the type of tax increases he'll accept. For weeks he's said he did not want to interfere with negotiations in the Senate to try to break a nearly two-year logjam that has left the state without an annual spending plan.

The Senate plan includes a 4.99 percent income tax increase and a two-year freeze on local property taxes. Rauner says he'll reject an income-tax hike unless the property-tax freeze is permanent.

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