Thursday, April 22, 2010

Republicans say Quinn won't cut enough

By Jamey Dunn

Republicans said today that Gov. Pat Quinn is exaggerating his budget cuts, and his plan relies too heavily on taxes and borrowing.

Sen. Matt Murphy, a Palatine Republican, called Quinn’s budget “a lot of smoke and mirrors.”

“The governor came out and wants to convince people that he heard the people of this state when they said they want government to rein in spending. He is trying to convince people he’s going to cut $2.6 billion, when it’s clear that at best, he’s got $200 million up there in unspecified cuts [if his proposed 1 percentage point tax increase passes], and this is from a guy who’s got a track record of claiming he is going to cut and not having the guts to go ahead and do it,” he said.

However, Kelly Kraft, spokeswoman for Quinn’s Office of Management and Budget, said if the governor’s proposed income tax increase passes, there would still be $900 million in cuts. She added that Quinn is seeking to make $400 million more in reductions, in addition to the cuts he proposed in March.

“That’s still a huge amount of money,” she said. “We are making the cuts that we can. We are making responsible cuts.”

Republicans are calling for more substantial cuts before they would even consider a tax increase.
“Because we do, in the end, have to be specific with this. I would think that a number that would cause movement [on the governor’s budget] over in the House would be in the range between $2 billion and $3 billion,” said Sen. Chris Lauzen, an Aurora Republican.

Lauzen said those cuts could be achieved through Medicaid reform and changes to pension benefits for current employees. He also said that Illinois needs to lobby Washington, D.C., for more flexibility in spending stimulus money.

Quinn and Sen. President John Cullerton have both said that changes to pension plans for those who already work for the state would be unconstitutional.

Lauzen said he voted for billions in borrowing in the current fiscal year’s budget because the governor promised cuts that he says never materialized. “I voted for that borrowing, and I saw how it was used. I will not vote for that again — period, I won’t. I won’t be foolish a second time.”
Quinn proposed $4 billion in borrowing as part of the plan he unveiled last month.

Republican leaders are asking for a list of the cuts Quinn says he has made to the current fiscal year’s budget. Kraft said her office will give Republicans those numbers in the next few days.

Sen. Dave Syverson, a Rockford Republican, is optimistic about Illinois making a financial recovery, but he says it will take time.

“If we address the spending first and then we work on a plan to start paying off that debt by growing our economy, we can get through this. We just can’t get through it by continuing to spend at high levels and continuing to borrow and raise taxes. We can get through this, and we don’t have to do it overnight,” he said.

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