Gov. Rauner’s budget likely to set up battle with Democrats

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Since the night he was elected, Gov. Bruce Rauner has repeatedly said he wants Illinois to be the most competitive yet compassionate state in the nation. He’s also quick to add one caveat: “We don’t have the money to be able to be compassionate.” As the Republican prepares to propose his first budget Wednesday for a state that’s billions of dollars in the red, many lawmakers and advocates for low-income, elderly and disabled people are bracing for major cuts to areas such as Medicaid and mental health care. A Rauner administration official said Tuesday the governor will call for hiring more prison guards and spending more money on mental health care for inmates. He’s also expected to propose reducing funding for higher education. It’s all likely to set up a big battle with the Democrats who control the Legislature, many of whom prefer to raise Illinois income tax rates that rolled back on Jan. 1 to avoid massive cuts. But Rauner has said keeping tax rates low is key to improving the state’s economy — and generating the money needed to be more compassionate. Following a meeting with Rauner and other legislative leaders Tuesday afternoon, House Speaker Michael Madigan said the governor indicated he was prepared to deliver some “tough medicine.” “I think it’s fair to say he doesn’t plan to propose any tax increases,” said Madigan, a Chicago Democrat.