The President of the Illinois State Senate, Chicago Democrat John Cullerton, says he wants to meet with the eventual Republican nominee for governor about the state’s finances. It comes as the state’s income and corporate tax rates are scheduled to go down in a year.
The governor’s office predicts the tax decrease will create a nearly $2 billion hole in the next budget. Cullerton says he’d like to hear from the Republican nominee about the state’s budget.
"Have them help us decide, since, theoretically, one of their own could be the governor for half of the fiscal year, see what their thoughts are on how we balance this budget," Cullerton said.
Four Republicans running in the March 18 primary for Illinois governor: State Senators Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard, state Treasurer Dan Rutherford, and venture capitalist Bruce Rauner.
Also, Cullerton says reforming Chicago’s massive pension obligations is his top priority this year. He says Chicago Public Schools’ retirement obligation has jumped up by $400 million. That comes after the school district laid off 3,000 teachers last year due to school closings and budget cuts.
Cullerton says more school cuts could be coming without action from Springfield.
"We’re talking about Draconian cuts. Draconian. I mean, you tell me. You go ask the board of education if they had to cut $420 million what would that mean in terms of the number of teachers," he said.
Cullerton says state lawmakers should also address the pension funds for Chicago police officers and fire fighters. He says he hopes labor groups and administrators can agree among themselves on a way to reduce the city’s obligations.