McSweeney says it's time to give Rauner the reins
Rep. David McSweeney (R-Barrington Hills) told fellow Illinois lawmakers recently that the best solution to the never-ending budget battle is to give Gov. Bruce Rauner the power and money to do what he is supposed to do.
Sitting down with "Chicago Tonight" correspondent Eddie Arruza, Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez (D-Cicero), Sens. Michael Connelly (R-Naperville) and Donne Trotter (D-Chicago), McSweeney proposed bypassing budget negotiations altogether.
“My view is that we’ve had too much talk, and we should give a lump sum to the governor based on our revenues,” McSweeney said. “We’re forecasting $32.3 billion in revenues. We should give that money to the governor to manage; that’s why we elected him. We are unable to reach a budget in Springfield, and raising taxes is the wrong answer. We will drive more people out of the state by raising the income tax.”
McSweeney would also give Rauner the authority to enact pension reform – re-amortizing pension debt or restructuring the debt – and would like to see him reform Medicaid and work with the Trump Administration to get more federal funding for the state’s Medicaid program.
McSweeney dismissed the Democratic lawmakers' objections to giving the governor such power over the state’s finances, saying voters would provide a check if he took actions they didn’t agree with.
“Just like a family has a budget, and let him decide how to spend that money," he said. "He’s up for re-election next year; he’ll have to be accountable for his decisions. But we keep having these same conversations about stopgap budgets, and people are getting hurt.”
The state has been operating on a stopgap budget since July 2016, with Democrats pushing for increased taxes to bring in more revenue to cover budget deficits and Republicans pushing back with demands for reform to reduce spending. In the Illinois House, Democratic representatives recently passed a partisan measure proposing another stopgap budget, earning the ire of Republicans.
While the Illinois Senate seemed poised to reach an agreement dubbed the "grand bargain," it also has ground to a halt.
“We are in a situation in the state of Illinois where we have $200 billion of total liabilities in the state,” McSweeney said. “We have a $6 billion budget deficit that’s coming up; we have $13 billion of unpaid bills. It’s like Groundhog Day: We keep passing stopgap measures.”
McSweeney highlighted the effects of hamstringing the state with stopgap budgets by pointing out a $2.4 million lease the state recently signed for a building in Springfield. With a full budget in place, instead of entering the five-year lease the state could have bought the building for $750,000, he argued.
When asked by Arruza if he felt that he had done enough to work with his fellow lawmakers, McSweeney acknowledged the need to work harder but said he remained steadfast in his commitment to fight any budget that relied on increased revenue.
“I think we have to keep fighting because at this point if we give up we’re going to lose more people from the state” McSweeney said. “We’re going to have a tax increase which is going to drive more people to states that are attracting businesses and people. So no, we have not done enough obviously; I have not done enough and we have not done enough. We all need to work harder.”