Illinois governor kills Illiana tollway project amid budget fight

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner announced plans Tuesday to close state facilities and curtail spending on childcare and senior services if there's no agreement on a state budget by July 1.

In a news release that read much like a legislative resolution, the Republican governor also announced plans to kill the $1.5 billion Illiana Expressway project, a proposed tollway that would link Interstate 65 in Indiana and Interstate 55 in Illinois. He suspended the work in January, questioning its need.

Rauner said his administration would decide on the possible closure of up to two juvenile detention facilities, along with shuttering a southern Illinois minimum-security prison work camp, closing down five state museums and grounding state aircraft.

Laying blame on Democrats, he described the process as defense against the "Madigan-Cullerton Budget," a reference to the legislative leaders who have OK'd a spending plan for the coming fiscal year but acknowledge they want a tax increase to bridge a revenue gap of at least $3 billion — Rauner says it's closer to $4 billion.

Chicago Democrats Michael Madigan, the House speaker, and Senate President John Cullerton, have said their spending blueprint is necessary to preserve vital services, particularly to low-income and middle-class taxpayers.

Rauner has begun a campaign proclaiming what he says is the Democrats' indifference to the middle class. He says he wants political and business reforms to curb politicians' power and reduce the cost of doing business in the state. But there was no evidence Tuesday that broadcast advertisements his aides hinted at had begun.

"Speaker Madigan, President Cullerton and the politicians they control refuse to act responsibly and reform state government," Rauner spokesman Lance Trover said in the release. "It is time they come to the table with Gov. Rauner to turn around Illinois."

The savings would amount to $400 million, Rauner said. Other reductions are on their way, he warned.

Co-payments for parents in the state's childcare program would increase and waiting lists created. Officials would seek stricter income rules on seniors for Department on Aging services. The state's program for energy assistance to low-income households would be held up, Rauner's statement said.

Cullerton spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon said if the governor shares the Legislature's goal "to provide vital services and invest in the middle class," he should negotiate with them.

"Unfortunately, today's actions signal that the governor would rather slash child care, services for troubled youth and senior care rather than work on a bipartisan budget solution," Phelon said.

The administration said the Department of Juvenile Justice has 500 unused beds and ordered preparation of consolidation and closure of as many as two facilities. Officials will prepare to close the Corrections Department's Hardin County Work Camp in Cave-in-Rock, move its 180 inmates and put in question the jobs of 60 staff members. Five state museums would be closed temporarily.

The governor said he would stop state-financed daily commuter flights between Chicago and Springfield for state employees and officeholders. State vehicle purchases would be suspended.

The House plans to return to work Thursday; the Senate next week.

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