Illinois Lawmakers: No Surprises in Quinn Budget

By Benjamin Yount
Illinois Statehouse News

   (Springfield) – 7/1/2010 –  Illinois lawmakers say they have questions or concerns about Gov. Pat Quinn's new budget.  But few members of the General Assembly say that they are surprised.
   Quinn inked the $24.9 billion spending plan Thursday morning.
   The governor talked of cutting over $1 billion in state spending, but offered few specifics.
   State Sen. Tim Bivins, R-Dixon, said he doesn't expect to get those specifics anytime soon because he doesn't believe the cuts are real.
    "It's the old thing of let's get as much carnage to a couple agencies as we can and get the populace to scream at the legislators to raise taxes."
    Bivins said Quinn promised a billion dollars in cuts in the last budget that never happened.  So he doesn't "see the management" in Quinn's handling of the state's finances.
    GOP State Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, agrees.  He said even though the governor walked into a bad situation when he took over in the office, Mitchell said he hasn't seen Quinn do anything to step up to the plate.
    "I think you can predict what a person is gonna do in the future by what they've done in the past."
   But Democratic State Sen. Toi W. Hutchinson said no one can place all of the blame for Illinois' financial mess at the governor's feet.  She said lawmakers in both parties, and leaders stretching back decades, did their part to get the state to this point.
    "There's no way to make this pretty.  There's no way to make this easy.  This is going to hurt across the board, but we need folks who are willing to step-up and take that challenge."
    Hutchinson said Republicans in Springfield are only willing to say "no" and not help.  GOP lawmakers say their ideas to stop spending and slash government programs are ignored.
    Mitchell said the budget should be about paying for Illinois' real needs, not about blaming the other guy for all of the problems.
    "There's plenty of blame to go around.  The bottom line is you can't spend money you don't have."
    State Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, a leading House "budgeteer," doesn't expect any of the state's budget problems to go away anytime soon.
    He expects lawmakers to take a vote on some sort of revenue enhancing measure, whether it is a $3.7 billion pension borrowing plan, a 33-percent income tax increase that Quinn has championed, or both.
    "I think (voting on both proposals) is a possibility because the longer we delay, the worst the bond markets view us, the less willing vendors are to sell to us," he said.
    Illinois' new budget is $1.4 billion smaller than last year's, Hutchinson said, mainly because the state is bringing in at least a billion dollars less in taxes.
    "The governor has the authority to do what he can with what he's got.  And what he has isn't enough to keep the ship floating," she said.
    But Bivins and other GOP lawmakers guess the budget plan laid out this week is part of a Democratic strategy to have lawmakers come back to the Capitol after the election to "fix" the budget.
Hutchinson said that line of thinking, however popular, isn't helping.
    "The fact that we have a trust crisis in government, an integrity crisis in government, that is as big as the fiscal crisis, makes this infinitely more difficult."
   (Article courtesy of Illinois Statehouse News)