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Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner Overlooks Budget Crisis In State Of The State Speech


For more than seven months, there's been a budget impasse in Illinois, and there's no sign of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic lawmakers coming to terms. Today, in his State of the State address, Rauner called for serious negotiation, but made little mention of the state's financial crisis. NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: Education, criminal justice reforms and other issues were the focus in Gov. Rauner's State of the State address. It wasn't until the very end that he talked briefly about the shadow that's loomed over Illinois for months - the stalemate over a budget crisis that's caused deep cuts in social service programs, layoffs and a struggle for both public universities and thousands of students as they wait for state grants.


BRUCE RAUNER: All of us in this chamber had a difficult year together in 2015, as we debated a budget with structural reform. But it is not too late for this general assembly to make historic progress for the people of Illinois.

CORLEY: Gov. Rauner says he won't support a financial plan that includes a tax increase championed by Democrats to help fill a massive budget gap. That's unless the legislature approves the pro-business, union-weakening reforms that he wants. And during his speech, Rauner blasted AFSCME, the union for state workers, saying its negotiated salaries and work rules have cost taxpayers millions.


RAUNER: We need to install common sense into out union contracts.


CORLEY: Besides that, Rauner had little to say about a now seven-month budget impasse this fiscal year. For Emily Miller, it's clearly frustrating. She works for Voices for Illinois Children and as a spokesperson for a coalition of service providers, many struggling to survive without state funds.

EMILY MILLER: How many people have to stand in front of a microphone and say that their lives are being ruined before the governor decides to make passing a budget his number one priority?

CORLEY: Speaking on Illinois Public Media shortly after the speech, House Speaker Michael Madigan, the leading Democrat in the state legislature, called Rauner's focus on unions and term limits and not the budget misguided.


MICHAEL MADIGAN: The evidence is very clear. We can come to a resolution of our problems if we're reasonable in terms of identifying what the real critical problems are.

CORLEY: Madigan says that's the budget, and the longer the state waits to resolve its budget woes, the more damage will occur. In just a few weeks, Gov. Rauner will present a budget plan for next year, even as the turmoil over this year's unresolved budget continues. Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Cheryl Corley is a Chicago-based NPR correspondent who works for the National Desk. She primarily covers criminal justice issues as well as breaking news in the Midwest and across the country.
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