SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois’ new governor called Wednesday for deep spending cuts to Medicaid, pensions, and other programs to fix the state’s budget mess without raising taxes — a pitch met with quick opposition from Democrats who control the Legislature.
Delivering his first budget address since winning office last fall, Governor Bruce Rauner, a Republican, said his plan would end ‘‘the irresponsible and reckless practices of the past.’’
He said lawmakers must be willing to make politically unpopular decisions to close a more than $6 billion budget hole next year.
‘‘This is our last, best chance to get our house in order,’’ Rauner said.
According to budget documents released Wednesday afternoon, Rauner is recommending $1.5 billion in Medicaid cuts, along with other reductions.
Rauner’s budget blueprint is among the first concrete tests of whether the Republican first-time officeholder can begin to bring the change he has promised to one of the last Democratic strongholds in the Midwest.
The multimillionaire former private equity investor follows other Republican governors who’ve taken over states and attempted to make them more business-friendly by shrinking government and taxes.
But Rauner, who won the governor’s office in Barack Obama’s home state, faces an even greater challenge in a post-recession state where Democrats have super-majorities in both chambers.
They criticized Rauner’s plan as disproportionately hurting working families while leaving corporate tax ‘‘loopholes’’ in place.
‘‘He’s putting lives and livelihoods in jeopardy by treating our state’s most vulnerable people like burdens,’’ said state Senator Mattie Hunter, a Chicago Democrat.
Many Democrats want to raise Illinois’ income tax rate, which dropped on Jan. 1 from 5 percent to 3.75 percent, to avoid some spending cuts. House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat, said he believes the state needs a mix of spending cuts and new revenue. He also renewed a call for an additional tax on incomes over $1 million.
The bleak budget picture has led credit agencies to give Illinois the worst credit rating of any state. It also has the nation’s worst-funded public pension system, with a shortfall of $111 billion.