Budget relief still possible, state official claims

Budget relief still possible, state official claims

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Bruce Rauner's budget director said Thursday that public universities, community colleges, social services and other agencies left without funding for half of the current fiscal year might still see relief.

A supplemental appropriation of $231.8 million to the University of Illinois is listed in Rauner's 570-page budget book. There's another line item of $136.8 million for the Illinois Community College Board.

The funding is dependent upon Rauner and the Legislature reaching a balanced budget agreement for the fiscal year that begins July 1, said budget director Scott Harry.

"Under the assumption that we are able to achieve a balanced budget for fiscal year 2018 and that will be in place, then we would be open to additional resources to appropriate money in those areas to grant their funding level up to a maintenance level for fiscal year 2017," he said.

Maintenance level, Harry said, would be determined by his office and the agency "on what their spending needs will be for FY17 in order for them to continue to administer and operate their core programs and services."

Also Thursday, Harry acknowledged that the fiscal 2018 budget has a gap of about $4.6 billion between anticipated revenue and expenditures.

Filling the gap, Harry said, could be accomplished by a combination of the "grand bargain" budget deal being negotiated by Illinois Senate leaders in addition to budget cuts.

"His preferred option ... is to make structural changes, to grow the economy, to add jobs and with that working with the General Assembly with spending reductions, he would be open to new revenues," he said.

Harry insisted the budget "is balanced," but Chicago Democrat Sen. Heather Steans said "it feels like a little bit of punt work is going on here in terms of leaving it to the General Assembly here, the Senate, to get us to a balanced budget."

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