Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, under fire from Democrats and their allies for cuts to popular social service programs, moved to lift those political pressure points Monday from a broader effort to win his pro-business, union-weakening legislative agenda.
In what Rauner’s team billed as a compromise with lawmakers, the administration offered to loosen new rules that caused the state to turn away tens of thousands of low-income children from its subsidized child care program. The rookie governor also backed away from plans to reduce the number of people with disabilities who qualify for certain kinds of state assistance.
Both issues have been flashpoints in the larger Springfield stalemate that has left state government operating for more than four months without a full spending plan in place. Rauner wants Democrats to approve measures to weaken union rights in collective bargaining, limit worker rights in injury claims against employers and make Illinois’ civil lawsuit system less friendly to plaintiffs. Democrats want a tax hike to prop up a state budget that’s billions of dollars out of whack.
To save money during the impasse, Rauner used his executive powers to make the child care cuts, and had been working toward the cuts to disability services, which require federal approval. All along, the governor contended that the state couldn’t afford to fully pay for the programs without a true budget.
That position changed Monday when the Rauner administration said it was willing to roll back child care eligibility restrictions so that more — but not all — of the families that have been rejected in recent months would be able to join the program. Higher copay rates that Rauner put in place in July would remain, while the administration said other restrictions could be lifted “pending further review and legislative consultation.”
“This rule change was agreed to in good faith with legislators to create an environment where negotiations over reform and a balanced budget can succeed,” Rauner spokesman Lance Trover said in a statement.