Tuesday, June 09, 2009

First cuts, then taxes

by Jamey Dunn
The top four legislative leaders and Gov. Pat Quinn agreed that they will have to cut spending from a budget that is severely out of whack before resorting to tax hikes to plug the deficit. But how soon those cuts could be made and when lawmakers will agree on a budget is far from clear.

Leaders of both political parties met again with Quinn in his Chicago office today to continue budget talks after failing to agree on a bare bones budget approved along party lines May 31.

Quinn is not backing off of the need to approve a state income tax increase. He said after the meeting that his office would send out notices this week to human service providers letting them know that their funding could be slashed in half if the budget that legislators passed were enacted.

The governor said he and leaders discussed about $1 billion in cuts and cost-saving ideas in today’s meeting. However, he said that even if those cuts were achieved, an income tax increase would still be necessary. “We have to do this. Otherwise, … we won’t recognize our state,” he said.

Republicans continued to demand cuts and reform before considering tax increases, and they said they now sense some cooperation from Democrats. “I am encouraged that there does seem a willingness to consider some real changes to the way we do business in Illinois,” Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno said.

Quinn said he could support pension reform, including a two-tiered system that would offer lesser benefits to newly hired state employees and teachers, as well as switching to a managed-care style for Medicaid programs. (His proposal for a two-tiered pension system stalled in the legislature last month.)

House Speaker Michael Madigan said he agrees that pension and Medicaid reforms are necessary and that they should be addressed regardless of the need to approve a budget. But he would not indicate whether making budget cuts and cost-saving reforms this summer would improve the chances of his chamber approving a tax increase. He said he thought that voter opinion, especially opposition from unemployed or under-employed constituents, played a large hand in legislators' rejection of a temporary income tax increase at the end of May.

“I think that lawmakers that do not wish to vote for the income tax increase are reflecting people in their districts,” Madigan said. “Seldom do Americans welcome tax increases.”

While Quinn emphasized the need to produce a “balanced budget” before the new fiscal year starts July 1, House Minority Leader Tom Cross said he doesn't think there's enough time to make the level of changes he thinks are necessary before his caucus would consider a tax increase.

“I think the worst thing we do as a state is to just come along and say that we’re going to raise taxes in this economy,” Cross said, “ and hand it over to a system that’s going to put us in the same situation in another two or three or four or five years without fundamentally changing how we handle things.”

Cross said that Quinn’s staff will sit down with Democrats and Republicans of both chambers to go through the budget line by line to look for places to cut. In addition, Quinn said he will issue executive orders to create a Taxpayer Action Commission to implement the Tax Payer Action Board’s cost-cutting recommendations as quickly as possible, and he said he'd form an Economic Recovery Commission intended to stimulate job growth and economic development.

Senate President John Cullerton said that he thinks a tax increase ultimately will be needed but that cutting the budget is the first priority. “It’s inevitable, I believe, after we do this cutting, …eventually we’re going to have to have some new revenues to help avoid the draconian cuts that the governor was talking about. So, hopefully, we’ll do that. But, first, we have to focus on those cuts.”

The next leaders’ meeting is tentatively scheduled for next Tuesday.

1 comment:

Buddyj2002 said...

I'm a Disabled man of 34 yrs trying my best to live in Illinois society at or below "poverty" Standards and now Gov. Pat Quinn wants to cut the Human Services program so he and all the other legislators or Illinois can keep their "pay raises, medical insurance, paid holidays, paid traveling trips around the state or the country for their pleasure at Illinois tax payers expense!" As a tax payer and a Disabled person, I have saved the State of Illinois, millions of dollars since moving out of the nursing home I was living in and moved out into society in June 1985.

It costs the State of Illinois around $250,000.00 or more a year to keep me alive in a nursing home! It costs the State of Illinois around $50,000.00 or less (depending on my illnesses during a year) a year to live in society, so "how am I a burden on the State Budget if it's cheaper to live in society than in a nursing home?"

Not every disabled person is the same, I don't get sick as often as a nursing home person does but then again, I hire and fire my own caregivers, I pay my own bills which some are medical bills like supplies, medications, van transportation, wheelchair motor repairs, other wheelchair repairs that the State of Illinois doesn't buy. I buy my own food! I'm NOT on the foodstamp program, it's not enough money so I make it where I can afford to get what I need, when I need it.

If the Governor wants to cut the State Budget, maybe he should look in his own backyard and start there on making cuts and see 'how quickly the State Government starts crying when the State offices and personnel start getting cut or downsized because of too much "wastefull" spending?" That would be a "Blessing to the Taxpayers of Illinois!"

How come ALL the State of Illinois offices have their own buildings? Why can't they ALL be in one big building running a minimal staff for each office then look at the BILLIONS of dollars saved every year and "how the cuts in the Budget wouldn't have to come out of much needed Home Health Programs, right?"

The State of Illinois could "Balance their Budget by cutting ALL the incomes of the Legislators, their pensions, their bodyguards now and after they retire from office, cut their extravagant spending of Illinois Taxpayer's money on crap they don't need but want to have. Let's sit down with the Governor and make "PROPER CUTS" that can be cut within the Illinois Government starting with the Governor and working our way down the very long list of "BS" spending and cut some REAL programs or funding to programs that don't need to be open anymore. Make cuts within the State of Illinois office which would "FREE UP MONEY" for funding elsewhere in the state that would benefit schools (besides just Chicago schools), help out REAL needy people in the different cities in rural Illinois.

There is so much I haven't written about but I hope other people add on to my comments and add their comments down the line that someone of importance takes notice of and speaks up for us to the Governor and the General Assembly in NOT cut funding for the thousands of Disabled people Statewide. Please hear us oh Merciful God and lay your hands on the Governor and Legislators NOT to take our Freedom to live in Society as equal people away from all of us who deserve the Right to live as we do. Hear my Prayer Oh Merciful God and Deliver us from the people who will damn us to an early grave for many of us. Amen

Sincerely, John Bell, C5-6 Incomplete Quadriplegic post 34+ years from a minibike accident