Don’t say I didn’t’ warn you. Before last November’s gubernatorial election, I wrote a piece that questioned whether big business principles translated into effective governance for everyday people. Judging from Bruce Rauner’s first budget proposal, the answer is a resounding no.
Now, we clearly understand that Rauner fully expects to get pushback about the draconian cuts that I’m sure you’ve already heard about it. If you haven’t, we will get to them shortly. One thing is for sure, though, in the high stakes game of chess being played by billionaire Rauner, he cares very little about the poor and working class in the state of Illinois. For instance …
… Rauner proposes to cut Medicaid spending by $1.5 billion dollars. He wants to cut high money for higher education by $387 million dollars, which equates to a 30 percent cut in state-run colleges and universities. He wants to cut revenue sharing with Illinois’ cities and towns by $600 million, and he wants to put an end to state subsidies that provide reduced fares for students and the elderly.
How you like them apples? But we’re not done yet. Let’s continue on down the line. He wants to cut $200 million from substance abuse, mental health and early intervention services, while hiring 473 more security guards to support overcrowded prisons. He wants to save $167 million by ending transitional support to the 18- to 21-year-old DCFS wards aging out of the system, and he’s working to decimate the unions by issuing an executive order that allows public employees to opt out of paying fees to unions that collectively bargain on their behalf. He’s also proposing “right-to-work zones” in which workers would be allowed to opt out of paying union fees even if they benefitted from union-negotiated contracts. If acted upon, all of these acts would further erode unions’ (i.e. workers’) bargaining power.
All of these things are being done with the aim of dealing with the state’s debt crisis. It’s important to note that in his efforts to balance the budget, Rauner is not asking for any increased revenues. Translation: no increased taxes and state fees. Translation No. 2: No money from the rich and very rich. Just hits to the poor and the very poor.
To be fair, though, we do have to talk about the good things on the table. Rauner says he’s committed to a $290 million increase in general state aid to Illinois’ schools, and an increase of $25.3 million in early childhood education, which supports a personal project of first lady Diana Rauner, who is the unpaid head of an organization pushing for more early education for at-risk children.
With everything that I’m seeing coming out of his camp, I’m beginning to wonder if that wasn’t Bruce Rauner spitting the last verse on the Ghettto Boys’ “Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta” back in the day, because he could definitely be spitting that verse right now.