Rauner on budget: It's not perfect, but a step in right direction

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) - Governor Bruce Rauner signed his first budget since taking office three years ago. 

The budget is one both Republicans and Democrats are calling balanced.

It is a $38.5 billion spending plan that was easily approved by lawmakers.

Officials said everyone was eager to come to an agreement that would avoid a repeat of the historic budget stalemate Illinois faced before that created hardships for higher education institutes and social service agencies across the state.

The budget signing took place at the Thompson Center on Monday morning. 

"It’s not a perfect fiscal plan, but it’s a step in the right direction. My hope is that we continue the bipartisanship that steered us to this day. Still must enact reforms that cut the cost of government, make the state friendlier to job creators, and ignite our economy," Rauner tweeted before he signed the budget. 

This is the first time in Gov. Rauner's three-year tenure. 

Rauner pushed for a balanced budget that did not raise taxes. However, in approving this budget, he will be approving spending billions of dollars from the 2017 income tax increase.

The new budget includes $5.5 billion of revenues from that 32 percent increase in the Illinois income tax rate.

Weeks before his election, Rauner had promised to roll back the state's personal income tax rate during his first term back to the 2011 rate.

Last year, lawmakers did an override vote on Rauner's budget and tax hike veto. Rauner had said he would introduce a plan to repeal the Madigan tax hike.

The budget approved by lawmakers still leaves some holes. No money is dedicated to paying down the $6.6 billion in backlogged bills to providers of state services.

It relies on the sale of the James R. Thompson Center for revenue.

It also counts on nearly a half-billion dollars in pension savings, "that may not happen by offering buyouts to some workers and pensioners," the Chicago Tribune said.

The proposal does raise spending on early childhood and K-12 education with a combined $407 million.

Another big item: the state will only withhold 5 percent of the Local Government Distribution Fund from city governments. That's down from 10 percent in years past. But that deficit will still hit cities like Decatur with $525,000 in the red before FY 2019 even starts.

The budget also includes $53 million to cover the first-year costs of building a new veterans home in Quincy, where there have been deadly incidents of Legionnaires’ disease. 

$172 million is promised to cover costs related to the Obama Presidential Center set to break ground this year in Jackson Park.

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