Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Quinn and Brady vague on the budget

By Jamey Dunn

Both Gov. Pat Quinn and his Republican opponent, state Sen. Bill Brady, have yet to publicly spell out all the details of their plans for the state budget.

Quinn claims he has made about $3 billion in cuts during his time in office, and Brady said he plans to cut a “dime on every dollar of government spending.

“We’ve cut the budget this fiscal year by $1.4 billion. We have laid out the exact blueprint,” Quinn said.

Republicans have called on Quinn
in the past to produce a list of his cuts, but he has not obliged. When Quinn laid out agency cuts at the beginning of the 2011 fiscal year, he said the budget was a moving target. He issued new budget numbers for agencies this month.

David Comerford, a spokesman for the Illinois Federation of Teachers, describes Quinn’s plan as “built on quicksand.” He says Quinn must do more to reassure school superintendents that the $415 million that Illinois is set to receive from the federal government to help save education jobs will be spent to bring back teachers who got pink slips in the spring.

Quinn said of the federal funding: “Primarily it is for our K-12. However our education budget in Illinois, it’s somewhat seamless. … In a lot of ways, when we get help from Washington [D.C.] for our grammar schools and high schools, that does help us in other parts of our education budget.”

Comerford said there is still uncertainty surrounding the governor’s budget, and administrators will not know what their budgets will look like until Quinn makes his intentions clear. “We’d like to see people hired back. That’s why this was passed. Certainly a comment like that doesn’t help that situation,” he said in response to Quinn’s statement.

State Superintendent Christopher Koch says a special legislative session will be needed to dole out the money, but Quinn disagrees.

“I think people have a choice. They have a governor who tells the truth before the election. ... The other guy just wants to tell a bunch of fairy tales and raise your taxes, especially your property taxes after the election.”

Meanwhile, Brady has done next to nothing to inform voters of his specific intentions for the budget. He said he can’t build his plan unless he is in the governor’s office with the access to fiscal information and staff that the position entails. “I know we’re going to cut a dime on every dollar. … I don’t have the professionals in place to fully analyze the highest priorities.”

Brady said Quinn has limited access to budget information. “The lack of transparency from this insider government is creating an environment that — you can’t give specifics to those details.”
He has claimed to be able to balance the budget in a year without a tax increase while avoiding massive layoffs in education. That task could prove difficult, since education costs make up about a quarter of all state spending. He said he would consider cutting entire programs and that every state program is on the table for such cuts. “I will demand of every agency to come back with a budget of 90 percent. Show us what your priorities are within that 90 percent,” he said.

While neither candidate has presented a specific plan, that doesn’t stop them from taking jabs at each other's stance on the budget.

Brady said Quinn’s proposal to increase the state income tax from 3 percent to 4 percent would seriously damage the state’s economy and that the governor’s policies have chased jobs and tax revenues out of the state. “The Quinn government has been spending money we don’t have. We need a fiscal conservative to step into state government and live within our means.”

Quinn said failing to pass an income tax increase and making the kind of cuts to education that he says would be necessary under Brady’s plan would result in increased property taxes on the local level. “He doesn’t want to tell people what his budget plan is. We know what it is. It’s to wreck education, wreck health care, wreck public safety and harm the people of Illinois.”

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