Activists demand explanations for cuts before State of the State address
By Charles Thomas
Tuesday, February 03, 2015 04:58PM
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Illinois governor Bruce Rauner has a chance to fill in the details on his plans for fixing the state's many problems when he addresses the general assembly Wednesday in his State of the State address.
A demonstration outside the Thompson Center targeted Rauner's early spending cuts to social services, including a jobs program for at-risk teenagers.
"Nobody was spoken to, nobody was talked to," Rev. Michael Pfleger said of the sudden cuts. "Programs were just ended."
"Come and ask us where we can trim the fat but don't just cut us out," said activist Lynette Santiago.
The newly-elected Republican inherited a billion dollar-plus shortfall for the current fiscal year that ends next summer. The wealthy businessman promised during his campaign to lower the income tax rate to 3 percent as he defeated Democrat Pat Quinn, who wanted to extend the then-temporary 5 percent rate to maintain services.
"We're going to run the government within the revenues that we have," Rauner said last Friday.
"In order to keep the income tax low, he's going to have to make spending cuts in the state budget," said Diana Rickert of the Illinois Policy Institute, a free market think thank that is a Rauner beneficiary.
Rickert expects the governor to cut selected social programs as well as state worker jobs and salaries.
"Everything is fair game for cuts this year," Rickert says. "The reason why is government has been over spending for many, many years."
But activists say some of the spending Rauner has stopped was approved, even contracted for by the Quinn administration as a safety net for the state's least fortunate.
"I understand that he's going to balance the budget in Illinois, that's what he said he's going to do," said Pfleger. "But you're not going to balance it by raping the poor."
In his speech Wednesday, don't expect the governor to list social programs and how much they'll be cut. That will come during the budget address on Feb. 18th.
But do expect Rauner to explain that virtually all state programs, except perhaps K-12 education, are on the table.