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Illinois Voters Increasingly Think We Need New Revenues to Fix This Mess

The number of people who think that the state’s only problems are “unnecessary programs” and “waste and inefficiency” is falling—and they really don’t like mental-health cuts.

Bruce Rauner talks to workers at the Sawing and Shearing Inc., steel company in Blue Island about his turnaround agenda on Friday, March 13, 2015.   Photo: Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune

When Bruce Rauner rolled into Springfield for his budget address last month, he echoed a familiar campaign theme: “waste and inefficiency are rampant in the system.”

Increasingly, voters don’t believe it.

Via Capitol Fax, SIU’s Paul Simon Public Policy Institute has a new poll out on how Illinois voters think we can fix the state’s fiscal state and what they’d be okay with cutting in order to do it. The big surprise—perhaps—is that, despite the “waste and inefficiency” drumbeat from Rauner and other pols and pundits, there has been a precipitous drop in the number of people who think the state “takes in plenty of money to pay for public services, but wastes it on unnecessary programs” and it can “fix the problem by cutting waste and inefficiency in government.” That’s been replaced by more support for a blend of cuts and revenue increases, or just revenue increases alone.

On the other hand, the new governor’s read on what people want to cut is pretty good, all things considered. Pension benefits remain number one, just shy of a pure majority. Elementary and secondary education—Rauner’s promised not merely to avoid cuts, but to “fully fund” it—is second to last.

Support for cutting university funding, which Rauner has proposed, is much higher than cutting K-12; and cuts for public safety, including prison operations, has been climbing, in sync with national trends and the governor’s criminal-justice ideas.

Where do Rauner’s proposed cuts contrast most with the public? Programs for people with mental and physical disabilities, the least popular target for cutbacks, which Rauner is getting pushback on.

They’re trends to consider as Rauner looks at a more dramatic number: a mere 36 percent approval rating (from another Simon Institute poll) early on in his administration.

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