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Rauner Budget Counts On Tax Hike

Gov. Bruce Rauner delivers his annual budget message to the General Assembly on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017.
Rich Saal
The State Journal-Register/pool
Gov. Bruce Rauner delivers his annual budget message to the General Assembly on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017.

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has been campaigning relentlessly against last year’s income tax increase.

But in his annual budget address Wednesday, he'll call for spending the extra money that rate hike has generated.

Brian Mackey reports.

Rauner wants more money to go to education and less to be spent on things like prisons and the judiciary.

And according to a preview document obtained by public radio, the governor will not call for an immediate rollback of the tax increase.

The day before, Democratic Senate President John Cullerton predicted that would be difficult: “If he wants to cut the income tax by 1 percentage point, that equates to $3.7 billion in lost revenue.”

Rauner seems ready to acknowledge that reality, though he is proposing what he’s calling "a path to a tax cut.”

He’d make major pension changes using Cullerton's "consideration model" — in which state employees, public school teachers and university workers would agree to lower pension benefits in exchange for something of value.

Rauner would then plow the savings from that into a tax rate reduction of 0.25 percentage points. But the plan — and tax cut — could be delayed for years while they're challenged in court.

And even if that does get through the legislature and courts, it’s still a long way from Rauner’s stated goal of lowering taxes by nearly 2 percentage points.

There are other aspects of his budget plan that could be challenging: Rauner needs Democrats to abandon their belief that public employee unions should be allowed to negotiate over health care benefits.

He also wants to sell the Thompson Center in Chicago for a few hundred million. The thing is, the expected savings from that are already counted in this year’s budget, and, generally, buildings can be sold only once.

Copyright 2021 NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS. To see more, visit NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS.

Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.