UPDATED: Rauner sees no action on pensions till after election

UPDATED: Rauner sees no action on pensions till after election

Updated 8:58 p.m. Thursday

CHAMPAIGN — Gov. Bruce Rauner said Thursday that he'll travel the state this summer and fall, meeting with individual legislators and legislative leaders to press his case for major pension reform.

But he admitted there won't be a vote on his plan until after the Nov. 8 election. Under a side agreement that was part of the "bridge" budget deal reached last week between the governor and the Democratic Legislature, the cash-strapped Chicago Public School system won't get a $215.2 million contribution from the state to its teacher pension system without the approval of a broad-based pension reform.

"The tough votes get done in the lame-duck sessions after elections. That's just what they do. And we're going to have a window between November 8th and January 14th or whatever it is, to try to get some important things done," Rauner said in a wide-ranging meeting with The News-Gazette's editorial board.

Pension reform is one of the three major issues — along with workers' compensation changes and "local control" — that Rauner said have to be addressed before he considers any tax increases for Illinois government.

"We need all pensions in the state of Illinois reformed and on a constitutional basis that protects existing benefits, doesn't reduce existing accrued benefits but creates more affordable options for current employees in their future work," the governor said.

He said the pension proposal that he and Senate President John Cullerton support would give public employees options, and that would make it constitutional.

"President Cullerton and I have agreed on how to do that. Even Speaker (Michael) Madigan's staff has agreed that it probably works. That's front and center now on the table after the election," he said. "In order to be constitutional we need to create choices, not forcing employes to do one thing or another with their pensions. We need true economic choices.

"For example, it's not necessarily required that pay increases be pensionable. That's not a law. And if we made the increased portion non pensionable but said to (employees), 'You can make it pensionable if you choose to be in Pension B. If you don't want it to be pensionable, then you can stay in Pension A.' We can create various options that are more affordable and where there's an economic benefit to taxpayers and an economic benefit to the employee."

Rauner said the pension change could save the state $1 billion annually. But if it were applied "across the board," he said it could save all governments in Illinois $2.5 billion a year.

He admitted the "final details need to be worked out. We've agreed on a broad concept."

Rauner said the "bridge" budget deal approved last week "was a very small step in the right direction," even though he acknowledged the spending plan was out of balance and would add to the state's red ink. It includes more than a half-billion dollars in new spending for preschool through high school education.

"We don't have a truly balanced budget, so that's the bad news," Rauner said, "but this was a step to get there."

He said it was unclear how far out of balance the bridge budget is.

"You'd have to break it down in some detail. We've got a lot of court-ordered spending going on that I've tried to work out of, but the good news is that is materially less than what Speaker Madigan tried to get out" of the Legislature, Rauner said.

Asked why he signed the spending plan after saying he would never sign an unbalanced budget, Raner said: "To me it's not a budget. All this is is a bridge to a balanced budget. I don't regard this as a budget. This just gets us through November, which is what they said I had to do. I had to do something so we don't have a meltdown. I have a duty. The schools have to open and public safety has to continue to exist."

On other issues, Rauner said:

— He is opposed to a graduated income tax replacing Illinois' current flat tax.

"Disaster," he said. "A green light for spending. That would blow us up."

But Rauner said he is open to increases in other taxes, provided he gets pension reform, workers' compensation changes and more "local control" for government, he said.

"There are a lot of ideas on the table, some I hate, some I'm sort of open-minded to," the governor said. "I'm open to considering some new revenue. There's the income tax, there's the sales tax, some people have advocated for the fuel tax, there are some people advocating on some different things. I'm open to considering some blend of different options, but it's got to make us more competitive.

"The key thing is, when we come out of this and I'm traveling around the nation and the world on my nickel, that I can point to our structure and say we're competitive and attractive and stable."

— He is "working on" a way to keep Exelon Corp.'s two nuclear power plants, including one in Clinton, open.

"We want to try to preserve those jobs. Those are high-paying, good jobs," he said. "I want to preserve economic vitality in a lot of these communities. And energy options. It's an economic benefit for us to have a lot of energy options — nuclear, solar, wind, coal, natural gas — we should have all of the options in Illinois. Because I don't know where the world is going and I'd like to have all of the options."

But he said he wanted to ensure that ratepayers and taxpayers "are protected."

"We're trying to get to the facts and we're talking to Exelon executives," he said.

— He thinks he and lawmakers can agree to a broad school-funding reform in the next six to 12 months.

"One of the reasons I supported more money (for schools) this year, even though we don't have a balanced budget, is the only way to get the funding formula to change is more money in the system. That way, the losers are less," Rauner said. "It's not the right short-term decision necessarily because we don't have a balanced budget. It's the right long-term decision because Illinois is so woeful in our school funding. I took a step for the long term that's maybe not optimal for the short term."

— He doesn't understand why African-American voters continue their allegiance to the Democratic Party in Illinois.

"Why do we have four of the worst cities in America (Chicago, Peoria, Rockford and Kankakee) for African-Americans in Illinois? We've been a one-party state that in theory is an advocate for African-American families," he said. "Why does Illinois have four of those cities that are the worst in American for African-Americans? It makes me so mad. I ran for governor to be a governor for everybody in this state and to fix the system. Why do we tolerate this?

"Why have we been a one-party state for decades? In theory (Democrats are) supposed to be advocating for the poor, the disadvantaged, the African-Americans. Total failure. We have four of the worst cities for African-Americans. Why? No economic opportunity and no proper support for our education system. That's why. We've got to change the system."

— Enacting his reform agenda is taking longer than he had anticipated, and he feels harried.

"It's definitely slower," he said. "No question. I thought we'd get more done."

"I underestimated how much most of the standard media just doesn't care about this and ignores it and won't send our message out. We've been too slow in creating our own media channels through social media and other outlets. We're doing that now. There's no substance in the reporting and so we've got to create our own communication, otherwise the people of Illinois just don't know what's going on. That's my frustration."

Rauner claimed his political opponents "have so many voices. You've got agencies. You've got unions. You've got elected officials. You've got patronage folks inside my administration. And I'm fighting some of the legacy of the old Republican Party, who are bombing me. I've got the Democratic Party bombing me. I've got the media bombing me.

"I've got World War III on seven levels."

ON HIGHER EDUCATION

CHAMPAIGN — Increasing funding to higher education at the same level as the budget increase for preschool through 12th grade education just wasn't possible this year, Gov. Bruce Rauner said Thursday.

P-12 education got a 12-month budget with $524 million more than last year under the so-called "bridge" spending bill that Rauner signed last week.

But higher education got only six months' worth of spending in what has been termed a stopgap budget bill, and has received about a billion dollars total in the last 18 months, far less than in past years.

"I can't get everything done. There's a lot of things I'd like to get done," Rauner said during a Thursday morning meeting with The News-Gazette editorial board. "We just can't do everything."

Rauner said "there's a lot more political divide" on increasing higher education spending than for elementary and secondary education.

"I can drive that but I need a little more leverage to get that done," the governor said. "We're going to put more money there, especially to the U of I. The U of I has been suffering for years. We should be a better university here than they have in Michigan, in Ann Arbor. We should be the best Big Ten school by far."

Rauner said he remains "a big advocate for the U of I and I'm sorry this budget impasse has impacted the U of I, but all of the universities need to get a better handle on their bureaucracy and their overhead. All of the universities have an overhead problem. The U of I has a big overhead problem. It's not debatable."

He said "the U of I deserves to have support. I want to see the U of I expand and more money going into it with the students, the teachers, the researchers and less into the bureaucracy."

Rauner said more money for the UI would be a top priority "once a budget deal is done."

He asserted that the university has been "in decline" for 30 years.

"We have to stop the decline," Rauner said. "But I want the U of I to be one of the preeminent research universities in the world, back to what it was. It's still good. I'm not here to criticize the U of I but we haven't been doing what we need to do."

As he has in the past, Rauner called the university "a growth engine for the state and I think we can turbocharge it."

The governor said he eventually wants to develop a statewide capital bill for construction "and I want to get a lot more money into the U of I. I'd love to see their engineering school expand and some of their other fundamental, technical research expanded into health care and other fields.

"We can take it from an economic engine to one of the main drivers of economic growth in Illinois. You look at what Harvard and MIT have done for New England. You look at what Berkeley and Stanford have done for California. We can do the same thing for the U of I and the (University of Chicago), in my opinion. Now we need a partnership, the U of I and the U of C."

And Rauner said wants to get "recruiters" from private business and other universities away from the university, and for students and faculty to stay in Illinois.

"You've got recruiters who are living in Champaign, sucking your people to Seattle, like half of Microsoft's senior people are from the U of I. They should be in Illinois," he said. "We need to create the environment for them to stay here, to create their next new product, their next new technology, their next new business. We're never going to keep all of them but we shouldn't be losing the percentage that we are."

12:24 p.m. Thursday

CHAMPAIGN — Gov. Bruce Rauner said today in Champaign that increasing funding to higher education at the same level as the budget increase for preschool through 12th grade education wasn’t possible this year.

P-12 education got a 12-month budget with $524 million more under the so-called “bridge” spending bill that Rauner signed last week.

But higher education got only six months’ worth of spending in what has been termed a stopgap budget bill, and got about a billion dollars total, far less than in past years.

“I can’t get everything done. There’s a lot of things I’d like to get done,” Rauner said during a Thursday morning meeting with The News-Gazette editorial board. “We just can’t do everything.”

Rauner said “there’s a lot more political divide” on increasing higher education spending than for elementary and secondary education.

“I can drive that but I need a little more leverage to get that done,” the governor said. “We’re going to put more money there, especially to the U of I. The U of I has been suffering for years. We should be a better university here than they have in Michigan, in Ann Arbor. We should be the best Big Ten school by far.”

Rauner, who has been governor for about 18 months, said he remains “a big advocate for the U of I and I’m sorry this budget impasse has impacted the U of I, but all of the universities need to get a better handle on their bureaucracy and their overhead. All of the universities have an overhead problem. The U of I has a big overhead problem. It’s not debatable.”

He said “the U of I deserves to have support. I want to see the U of I expand and more money going into it with the students, the teachers, the researchers, and less into the bureaucracy.”

Rauner also said it’s taking more time to enact his reform agenda than he had anticipated.

“It’s definitely slower,” Rauner said. “No question. I thought we’d get more done.

“I underestimated how much most of the standard media just doesn’t care about this and doesn’t understand and won’t send our message out. We’ve been too slow in creating our own media channels through social media and other outlets. We’re doing that now.”

 

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
vcponsardin wrote on July 07, 2016 at 12:07 pm

Mr. Rauner is definitely not going to make UI the #1 university in the Big Ten by driving its top facutly away through the deliberate destruction of the pension system and by providing no pay raises for at least two years in a row.

danofrom50 wrote on July 07, 2016 at 1:07 pm

You are not paying attention. If the U of I could reduce administators, thay would have more money to pay instuctors. Rauner "destroyed" the pension system in 18 months? The destruction has been going on for years by the liberals running Illinois. Thank God for a sane governor like Rauner.

rsp wrote on July 07, 2016 at 4:07 pm

Both sides have messed up the pension system, it's not just one side. It's been going on for 40 years or more. There won't be a quick fix either but everyone pointing fingers and trying for easy ways out will just dig deeper.

vcponsardin wrote on July 07, 2016 at 6:07 pm

The university budget issues are far more complex than simply eliminating administrators--though that is a good start.  Meanwhile, as people like Rauner and you wallow about in utter ignorance of the complexities of university budgets, top-notch professors are looking elsewhere and taking years of institutional memory and professional experience with them.  By preventing pay raises to faculty, Rauner is making it that much easier for faculty to leave.  And when the quality of the university drops, so too does the quality of life for everyone in the surrournding community.  Watch as your home prices tank with the exodus of faculty.  Watch as local businesses suffer.  Watch as C-U loses income and value with the loss of prestige and growth at the UI.  A healthy UI means a heathly C-U.  As far as the pension system goes, it is absolutely true that the mess was NOT created by the unions or the faculty.  It was created by decades of under-funding from the state with both Dems and Reps equally responsible.  At this point, the state has only one choice--to raise taxes to pay back the pension systems that were drained to fund other projects that benefitted all illinois residents--hence, all Illinois residents must now pay up.  And that includes faculty who are taxpaying Illinois residents too.  Pay raises for faculty and fix the pension system by raising taxes, and the UI as well as the surrounding communities will be fine.

jms wrote on July 08, 2016 at 12:07 pm

Even Jim Edgar didn't fully fund the pensions.

reality wrote on July 07, 2016 at 1:07 pm

Too much bureaucracy at the U of I?  Definitely!  Where did a lot of it come from...the State of Illinois rules and procedures!  Without supporting higher education, you affect staff, faculty,, researchers, and then students.  Without those, you ultimately affect the community. 

tominmadison wrote on July 07, 2016 at 1:07 pm

The man is delusional. UIUC might retain a third or fourth place big 10 ranking, if they had better leadership, a ton of extra money, lifes style advantages like lakes or mountains, the advantages of a big city, less crime,  and fairy dust.

one correct thing: incredibly top heavy university. Dump a bunch of administrators before asking for more dough. 

oh, and quit hiring crooked ones. 

 

Lostinspace wrote on July 07, 2016 at 2:07 pm

"The U of I has a big overhead problem. It’s not debatable.”

This judgment is presumably based on solid information.  Perhaps the governor could share it with us.

kiel wrote on July 07, 2016 at 9:07 pm

No kidding. Heck, I often buy reams of paper for my department from my own pocket because we don't even have a budget for office supplies.

worldgoesroundincircles wrote on July 07, 2016 at 4:07 pm

the table has been set folks. Rauner and the State of Illinois doesn't have the same regard for higher education as they do K-12. What a shame. Education is either important or not. While I'm extremely happy that the stop gap budget was approved and made fair for ALL school districts, I'm equally disappointed that our representatives and Gov do not see what a good investment for our state to support Higher Ed. Rauner is more interested in cutting the H.E budget and funding the pension system knowing that he won't get all the cuts he's asking for there. It ought to be a really interesting Thanksgiving. It should be a really good battle. I'll be amazed if the lawmakers can come to a consenus.

sanjuan wrote on July 07, 2016 at 4:07 pm

Yes.   Examples please.  Otherwise just more blah-blah-blah.

casemaker wrote on July 07, 2016 at 4:07 pm

seeing as how property taxes are 7 times higher already in Illinois then other states.....i think the state should do a reset and figure out what is the highest priority...see if they can fund it without borrowing...then repeat until the incoming money is spent. Then if no money...no spending.

.

jms wrote on July 08, 2016 at 12:07 pm

Governor Rauner,

Your lack of governing experience is showing. I'm no fan of Madigan either, but you need to drop your Scott Walker ideology and hostillity toward higher education, and then resign. And leave the state, like so many are doing because of you.

Illinois government has failed its citizens.

vcponsardin wrote on July 09, 2016 at 1:07 pm

So what is Mr. Rauner talking about with regard to pension reform?  I thought the state supreme court ruled quite clearly last year that the pensions were constitutionally protected and that the proposed changes were unconstitutional.  Is Rauner hoping for a constitutional amendment?  That could take years.

Bulldogmojo wrote on July 10, 2016 at 12:07 am

 

Touring around the state pushing pension reform...?

When he's not busy complaining about how African Americans don't get their asses in line with Conservatives who have turned into the dixiecrats. Hmm go figure. Where does he find the time?

Correct me if I'm wrong didn't a judge tell him changing the constitution to dodge the pension was not going to happen? Had he managed to amend the constitution to submerge the pensions do you think he would be talking about pension reform? No, he would have blasted it out of the water and left thousands penniless. He's doing the same thing with trying to manipulate the labor board to do an end run around healthcare that has been proven as being on par with any other state employee's healthcare.

The only tax break he's looking for is a tax break for himself and he conned the people who voted for him by promising them tax relief that will never come and an economic turnaround that cannot be accomplished by a dismantling of state structures under a crash program. I know it's a bitter pill to swallow that your vote went to a rich fund manager who made you false promises not unlike being one of those Trump university suckers but face the music and realize conservative leadership doesn't care if you eat or starve as long as they abscund with YOUR tax break. Also if your work is in Champaign County you are entirely dependent on the financial well-being of the employees of this University. So if for example you are a conservative BBQ/steak house owner...well I'm sure your meat will be fine in storage for a few years while you wait for the local economy to bounce back or if you're a conservative Italian restaurant owner who doesn't pay his advertising bills, I'm sure your pasta can boil for a couple of years while you wait too.

leroymailman wrote on July 10, 2016 at 2:07 am

Public higher education is a huge giant cesspool of waste of the hard-earned dollars of the taxpayer.  Moreover, the whole "gi-normous" leviathan, known as state government, is grotesquely bloated and overgrown.  It's time to vastly reduce the size of the state government and make Chicago stand solely on its own two feet financially.  And finally, the citizens of Illinois need to wake up and realize that they need to fire every Democrat in state government elected office because everywhere you look, the Democrats have screwed up our Nation.  Detroit, Chicago, New Orleans, St. Louis ... shall I go on?  These Dems need to be replaced with genuine and authentic small-government, socially conservative Republicans.  Those are the only ways that the once great State of Illinois ... the land of Lincoln and Reagan ... is ever going to be great again and allow the full potential of its citizens to be unleashed.

Sid Saltfork wrote on July 10, 2016 at 12:07 pm

You sound like a "genuine and authentic small-government, socially conservative Republican".  Please explain what a "socially conservative Republican" believe in?  What are your views on cutting social service programs, Social Security, unions, and bi-partisan corruption?

Bulldogmojo wrote on July 10, 2016 at 7:07 pm

 

LeroyMailman is really rockin' the thesaurus there...wait are you an actual Mail-man? A government employee? Sure why should we have higher education, who needs that? AMIRIGHT??

Speaking of the post office the other day I was in there getting a PO Box and the guy at the counter didn't know how to look up the +4 Hmmmmm

vcponsardin wrote on July 11, 2016 at 10:07 am

Champaign-Urbana would cease to exist if it weren't for the "giant cesspool" called the University of Illinois.  Such short-sightedness about the value of higher education is at the very heart of what's wrong with the conservative's political agenda.  Furthermore, you conveniently forgot to mention that Louisiana and Kansas--two states that are run by tea party conservative governors in which they've fully implemented Reagan's failed trickle-down economic theories--are both going bankrupt as a result.  Meanwhile, Minnesota and California--two states run by liberal Democrats who've upped the minimum wage, invested in infrastructure, and expanded social services--are growing like gangbusters.  Ooops...