'Room for improvement and cause for concern' in recent budget agreement, Laib says
The recent budget agreement in Springfield that the governor signed was no small feat but it's not a perfect package, the Republican candidate for the 86th District Illinois State House seat said during a recent interview.
"The state's previous record of passing a budget in a timely fashion is not great, so the achievement of passing the 2019 budget on time should not be overlooked," candidate and life-long Joliet resident Rick Laib told the Will County Gazette. "Still, there does seem to be room for improvement and cause for concern."
That the budget passed despite being significantly out of balance — as much as $1.5 billion in the red, according to Illinois Policy Institute (IPI) estimates — signals what the present state leadership thinks about reforms and spending cuts, Laib said.
"It comments on the level of restraint we're willing to abide with," he said. "In this case, not much. Even if the IPI numbers are off, which I'm not persuaded to believe they are, the recently passed budget does not evidence a path of economic repair. Rather, we see the opposite direction of continued unrestrained spending."
Laib, whose credentials include paramilitary and church service, is a U.S. Army Reserves veteran who has served on the Will County Sheriff’s Department's SWAT team and Honor Guard. He is challenging incumbent Rep. Lawrence Walsh Jr (D-Elwood) for the 86th District seat in November's general election. Walsh has represented the district since 2012. Both Laib and Walsh were unopposed during the primaries in March.
The Illinois 86th State House District is entirely within Will County, and includes much of Joliet and Channahon.
The spending bill approved late last month by both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly is far from balanced, exceeding "realistic revenue projections by as much as $1.5 billion", according to estimates recently released by the IPI. Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner called it the "$38.5 billion bipartisan compromise budget that holds the line on taxes," in a press release issued shortly after he put his signature to the spending package.
"For the first time in years, we have an opportunity to manage our way into balance, and we don't have to dip into the pockets of overtaxed Illinoisans to do it," Rauner was quoted in the press release. "Balance is in reach because we were able to accomplish $445 million of pension reform and the economy is stronger thanks to federal tax reform, and we are benefiting from an unexpected boost in tax receipts."
Rauner said in the press release that the spending package is "a step in the right direction" but admitted "it is not perfect." he said.
"We have a lot of work to do before we fully restore the state's fiscal integrity," Rauner continued. "We still need to enact reforms that bring down the cost of government, make the state friendlier to job creators, and ignite our state economy so it grows faster than government spending."
While Laib said he agrees with Rauner about reforms and bringing down the cost of government, he also pointed out that the budget Rauner signed doesn't do any of that.
"It does not appear to contain any reforms or savings that would put us back on track toward a prosperous state," Laib said.
What the budget does do is spend all revenue from last year's 32 percent tax hike, a dramatic increase in which Laib said his opponent in the 86th district race was complicit.
"My opponent did support the tax increase," Laib said.
"I presume he and I do not share economic philosophies in this area as I would not have supported it. We can work through where money should be allocated, provided we have that money to spend. If we do not have the financial resources for everything we want, cutting back spending would be difficult but is simply good stewardship. Merely increasing the taxes to pay for everything we want is a solution that has a very limited life, which is to say, it is no long-term solution."