Story by Jamey Dunn
Photograph by Hilary Russell
Gov. Pat Quinn said today that balancing the state’s operating budget is his top priority and that the capital plan for construction projects should come only after legislators approve a spending plan. The move could be perceived as a dig at the legislature, which is doing the exact opposite.
At an annual Springfield event, the Illinois Governor’s Prayer Breakfast, Quinn said the so-called doomsday budget he released Monday was the “responsible” way for him to inform legislators and citizens about the consequences if lawmakers fail to approve new revenue sources to help balance the budget. Quinn has proposed an income tax increase to help repair a combined $11.6 billion deficit over this fiscal year and next, and he said that he thinks lawmakers will support it before session adjourns at the end of the month.
“We have to help education and public safety and health care,” he said. “And if we don’t have the revenue, there are going to have to be severe cutbacks.”
Quinn said that passing a budget to keep social programs in place should come before a capital plan, but lawmakers plan to pass parts of the capital bill as early as today. This is the first time Quinn has publicly voiced opposition to passing a capital plan before passing an operating budget.
“I want to tell the members of the General Assembly I know they want a lot of [capital] projects and so on, and so do I. But that is not coming before the priority of taking care of real live human beings.”
As for funding for the capital bill, Quinn said that he is still not enthusiastic about legalizing video gaming to help pay for it. However, he said that the challenges the state currently faces might spur him to consider a proposal he wouldn’t normally support. He urged legislators to be flexible about their positions, as well.
“Right now I think it is important for both parties, both houses of the legislature, everybody to become people of Illinois,” he said. “Put aside differences and put aside, maybe, some of their past positions if it means that we have to band together to save our state.”