Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Brady and Quinn touch on budget ideas during debates

By Jamey Dunn

Both Gov. Pat Quinn and his Republican opponent for governor, Sen. Bill Brady, have avoided sharing many specific details of their budget plans during the recent debates. However, they each briefly mentioned some compelling ideas for tackling the state’s broken finances.

When asked about the possibility of borrowing up to $50 billion to help pay down the state’s unfunded pension liability, Brady touched on a borrowing plan to pay off Illinois’ growing stack of past due bills.

“Once we solve the pension crisis, there are some who have suggested that the marketplace may make it more affordable to pay back the backlog of unpaid bills that Gov. Quinn and Gov. Blagojevich have racked up,” Brady said at the recent debate in Elmhurst. “The crisis is so bad we have to consider all options.”

Brady has not ruled out the $50 billion in pension borrowing, which he has said would go toward the unfunded liability not the annual payments. Brady has also characterized the idea as one of many possible plans floating in the ether.

Patty Schuh, a Brady spokeswoman, said borrowing to pay down the deficit or fund the operating budget is out of the question. She said Brady “will not borrow to fill the structural debt.”

However, she added that Brady would not rule out borrowing against a “dedicated revenue stream” as part of a payment plan to address the backlog of unpaid bills.

Brady does not support $4 billion in borrowing, which the Senate plans to take up shortly after the election, to make this fiscal year’s pension payment “I’m opposed to that. Because [Quinn] does not have a plan to pay it back. You cannot borrow for structural operating deficits,” he said.

Quinn — who at the Elmhurst debate referred to his role in the budget crisis as the “cleanup man” — scoffed at Brady’s take on borrowing. “The state of Illinois is not going to borrow $50 billion. That is the most ridiculous thing you could possibly do.”

A statement Brady made to reporters after the debate implied solving the state’s deficit would take priority over the backlog. “We have to eliminate the structural deficit year one and then pay back the backlog of unpaid bills.”

However, Schuh said today that Brady plans to tackle both issues “in tandem” adding “those unpaid bills are out there” and cannot be ignored.

Meanwhile, Quinn has been touting the “Budgeting for Results” provision, which was rolled into the approved budget bill last spring, in recent debates. Check out tomorrow’s blog for a closer look at what it is and what role it could play in the budgeting process for next fiscal year.

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