SPRINGFIELD — For the first time since he took office in 2015, Gov. Bruce Rauner Monday signed a state budget into law.
Surrounded by lawmakers from both parties, Rauner signed the $38.5 billion spending bill just days after the General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to approve it.
“It is not perfect, but it is a good step in the right direction,” Rauner said at a signing ceremony in Chicago. “This was a great team effort. It was a great bipartisan effort.”
Rauner lauded the additional money in the budget for both K-12 education and higher education. He also cited the fact the budget includes $63 million to pay wages to state workers that have been owed since 2011. Although Rauner has had his differences with public employee unions, he said “once the agreement has been made, it must be honored.”
It wasn’t all praise for the budget, however. Rauner said it failed to pay down the state’s bill backlog and that it did not contain comprehensive pension reform. The budget package does contain a couple of buyout provisions for pensions and a limit on end-of-career salary spiking that together are estimated to save about $445 million. Rauner, though, prefers a more expansive plan approved by the Senate last year that makes workers choose between higher benefits in retirement or having raises count toward pensions.
Rauner also said lawmakers failed to enact any regulatory relief nor eliminate mandates on schools and local governments that he says drive up costs for taxpayers.
The budget was hammered out during weeks of negotiations among Republicans and Democrats from both the House and Senate. One of those negotiators, Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, said it built on the work of last year’s budget that was approved after lawmakers overrode Rauner’s veto.
This story will be updated.