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*** UPDATED x3 - Quinn: “I’m not listening to them” *** Senate Republicans outline $6.7 billion in budget cuts

Thursday, Mar 17, 2011

* OK, now we have some real numbers to look at. The Senate Republicans held a press conference today to outline the cuts they’d like to make to the budget to put it into balance. You can read the Senate GOP’s new plan by clicking here. The Sun-Times has a good overview

Items on the Republican chopping block include cutting $1.3 billion in Medicaid costs by tightening eligibility for health-care programs like All Kids and FamilyCare, which were both signature initiatives under impeached, ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

The GOP also proposed cutting school spending by 10 percent — or $725 million. The group expressed openness to freezing state-aid payments to school districts, scaling back poverty grants and trimming increases Quinn favors on early-childhood programs.

Radogno expressed support for state pension givebacks from existing workers that she said could yield $1.35 billion in savings for the state. Among them are requiring current employees to pay more toward their pensions, imposing the same pension reforms that went into effect Jan. 1 on new hires to the current workforce and setting up a 401(k)-style retirement program to which the state would provide a 6-percent match. […]

Other cuts Radogno and her caucus sought took aim at the state prison system, including ending $7 million in compensation to inmates that they can use to purchase “candy, cigarettes and cable TV.”

They want to stop funding the Illinois Arts Council, which is chaired by Shirley Madigan, wife of House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), because the cash-strapped agency has “essentially suspended” the awarding of grants to artists and art organizations yet continues to have a full-time staff.

* From their proposal

Take actions to reduce state payroll expenses. Options include:

• A statewide state government hiring freeze (Governor Quinn’s budget adds 950 headcount) which could save $50 million (although new headcount at the Dept. of Corrections should be considered to reduce overtime costs);
• Eliminating pay for three (of 13) state holidays each year such as election day (suggested by Taxpayer Action
Board); and
• Foregoing scheduled pay raises next fiscal year, FY12 (pay freeze was suggested by the Taxpayer Action Board). The labor contract includes minimum 5.25% pay increases in FY12, when coupled with estimated average 2.5% step increases on top of the base increases this amounts to almost 8% increases scheduled for next year. Foregoing those increases for one year could save almost $230 million GRF.
Targeted Savings: $300 million

I’m not sure how you can freeze pay and change holiday pay when 95 percent of state workers are covered under a union contract.

* The mayors won’t be happy with this

Local Government Revenue Sharing

Review the over $6 billion that local governments receive in revenue sharing from the State of Illinois. They receive around 6% of income tax receipts, over half of all gas tax receipts, 20% of sales tax receipts on items other than food and drugs, 100% of sales tax receipts on food and drug purchases, and 100% of revenues from the Personal Property Replacement Tax. A $300 million reduction represents around 5% of those revenues. This approach has been suggested by many groups including the Governor’s Taxpayer Action Board, the Illinois Policy Institute and the Civic Committee.
Targeted Savings: $300 million

* The Senate Republicans have pledged to put 15 votes on these cuts. Senate President John Cullerton responds…

“We applaud the Senate Republicans for coming to the table with suggestions on how to mend our fiscal crisis. It’s nice to hear them say something other than ‘no.’ Nevertheless, their efforts must go beyond more than press releases and photo ops. Releasing a list of possible cuts shouldn’t be the end of their participation in the budget process. I hope that this is just the beginning.

“To that end, I am reserving a series of appropriations bills for their use in hopes that they will use this opportunity to fully engage in the appropriations process. I believe that their proposals and commitment can be the base line for discussion on what we all agree is a necessary process of cutting waste and creating efficiencies.”

Finally, game on.

*** UPDATE 1 *** Unlike Senate President Cullerton, Gov. Quinn had some harsh words for the Senate Republicans today

On Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno’s call for $6.7 billion in cuts to his budget proposal, Quinn said the “apostles” of “draconian cuts” end up hurting the economy and job growth.

“I’m not listening to them,” he said, saying money for health care, human services and public safety were important.

Sheesh. Was that really necessary? I mean, what’s the harm in just listening to them? It’s gonna be a long four years, campers.

*** UPDATE 2 *** Quinn’s office just called to say that he is not ruling out dialogue with the Senate Republicans, but that he was “reassuring” reporters about how he won’t cut education by that much and slash vital programs.

They’re looking for an audio clip. Stay tuned.

*** UPDATE 3 *** From the governor’s press office…

We appreciate the Senate’s effort to identify additional savings. The challenge, however, is not coming up with myriad possibilities. As we examine their proposals, we must look at their consequences. If Illinois were to implement the cuts proposed today, Illinois would miss out on millions Illinois taxpayers have sent to DC in taxes; legal action would be taken against the state for violations of funding statutes, and conflicts of interest would be codified into state agencies; and economic recovery efforts that are creating jobs would be halted in their tracks.

Under the Governor’s leadership, Illinois is on the road to economic recovery. Announced today, after 13 months of straight declines in unemployment, Illinois’ unemployment rate is under 9 percent for the first time in two years. We lead the Midwest in job creation, and the Governor’s comprehensive plan to create jobs and economic growth is bearing fruit.

The Governor has cut spending at historic levels to help restore fiscal stability to Illinois, but spending reductions must be made carefully and with research to properly asses their impact. The Governor has asked for two years for realistic, responsible proposals for budget reductions. His team has been implementing budgeting for results, to look strategically at all programs to identify unnecessary state spending.

Senate Republicans advocate missing out on millions of dollars of federal matching funds – simply abandoning taxpayer money that should return to Illinois to help its citizens. Their proposals – including nearly $1 billion in cuts to education, $650 million loss in federal Medicaid match, and deep cuts to public transit services affecting 2 million people per day – will devastate our economy, infrastructure development, workforce training programs, and put thousands out of work.

We continue to welcome good-faith efforts to identify and reduce unnecessary state spending. We continue to invite all four caucuses to meet with us to discuss the serious challenges of stabilizing our budget and creating jobs for today and tomorrow, as well as the important and ongoing discussions regarding payment of the state’s overdue bills.

* Related…

* VIDEO: Sen. Minority Leader Radogno on budget cuts

* VIDEO: Sen. Althoff on budget cuts

* House committee votes to exempt casinos from smoking ban: House Bill 171 would exempt casinos from the 2007 Smoke Free Illinois Act, which banned tobacco smoking in public buildings and businesses.

* House committee passes gambling expansion bill: Illinois race tracks would be allowed to have slot machines, riverboat casinos would pay lower taxes and be allowed to buy more gaming positions under a gambling expansion bill that cleared a House committee this morning.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


83 Comments
  1. - Ghost of John Brown - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 2:15 pm:

    We have a pretty significant budget deficit. After what is arguably one of the largest tax increases in the state, it is just not feasible to make up the difference in more tax increases. Borrowing just pushes the ball down the court for future generations to handle. We need to have some serious budget cuts. We have to begin somewhere. It’s nice to see the GOP leadership put something forward. While there are already some doubters on the “other side of the aisle”, it’s time to sit down - SERIOUSLY - and talk in a bi-partisan way on what cuts should be made.


  2. - zatoichi - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 2:20 pm:

    Nice to actually see something with ideas that can be looked at for a change. They could have easily put something out like this months ago. It’s going to get savaged for what it proposes and cuts but that’s OK because no matter what any group puts out it will all get whacked by any number of groups.

    Need to ask why can’t union contract state workers pay be frozen? Many of the vendors who contract for services have unions with seperate contracts where pay has essentially been frozen by the lack of state payments to the vendors. State workers are not the only group doing work associated with state operations. They just get the most notice.


  3. - Jim F - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 2:27 pm:

    One point of clarification:

    The menu of cuts reaches $6.7 billion. The amount needed to balance the budget is $5 billion. So any combination of the menu to reach $5 billion is what is neccessary to fix the budget.


  4. - George - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 2:39 pm:

    They want to cut 1.4 million people off Medicaid, and all we get from the Sun-Times is a Blagojevich reference?

    “cutting $1.3 billion in Medicaid costs by tightening eligibility for health-care programs like All Kids and FamilyCare, which were both signature initiatives under impeached, ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich.”

    Don’t forget that if you reduce Medicaid eligibility ANY AMOUNT, you will lose ALL of our federal Medicaid funding under the new federal law.


  5. - Roadiepig - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 2:42 pm:

    I guess the circus in Wisconsin taught us that Republicans in power don’t mind breaking contracts so it shouldn’t be a surprise ours would offer freezing pay and changing our retirement age as legal solutions to the budget woes. The unions won’t agree to breaking their contracts , as they shouldn’t. Compromise should happen if they come up with something more reasonable. But much of what the senate repubs laid out are noon-starters due to federal rules, the state constitution, or labor laws. Makes it look like they are doing something I guess.


  6. - just sayin' - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 2:43 pm:

    About time. Would have been nice to have had prior to the tax hike when a counter proposal might have done some good.

    GOP has nothing to lose at this point. Now they are even willing to try serious work. 3 cheers for progress.


  7. - George - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 2:47 pm:

    Also, I find this incredibly ironic:

    Aging cut description:
    “Savings could be realized by reviewing the Community Care Program and evaluating Determination of Need (DON) score adjustments, re-evaluating levels of service hours for enrollees, evaluating the number of persons served and reviewing and evaluating worker rates. The program itself has grown from a $270 million program in FY07 to a $700 million program request for FY12, an increase of 162%.”

    DHS cut description:
    “Savings could be achieved over time by pursuing an aggressive approach to deinstitutionalizing care for the developmentally disabled and moving those persons into community settings.
    Illinois is far behind the national trend in moving individuals with developmental disabilities out of institutional care and into community settings. ”

    On one page, they propose cutting the Community Care program by 30% by - in part - cutting back on enrollees, and on the other, they say they need to move more people into community care!


  8. - Jim F - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 2:49 pm:

    George - At what point in the proposal does it say the Senate Republicans are going to kick 1.4 million peole off Medicaid? You need to back up that completely unfounded claim. Reducing liability by 12.5% will result in a cut of 50% enrollment. Good math. Thanks for the effort.

    Roadiepig - You are absolutely correct, we cannot cut anything - ever. Let’s raise taxes some more. Thanks for the effort.


  9. - Jim F - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 2:52 pm:

    George - If you go back a read more slowely, you will see that this proposal includes a “menu” of cuts that total $6.7 billion. Of that $6.7 billion, the State needs to cut $5 billion to balance the budget. So, that means either/or in some instances. Thanks for the effort.


  10. - Jim F - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 2:53 pm:

    slowly - sorry for the typo.


  11. - wordslinger - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 2:54 pm:

    Game on is right. It’s a serious proposal and Cullerton’s response was correct.

    That’s the way the system is supposed to work. A good start, and a very refreshing change of pace.

    Time for some heavy lifting. There have to be more cuts and they are going to hurt.


  12. - OneMan - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 2:56 pm:

    “I’m not listening to them,” he said, saying money for health care, human services and public safety were important.

    I guess this answers the question ‘Why don’t the Republicans have their own plan?’ because why spend the time making one up if the Governor isn’t even going to listen.

    Glad to see you learned some lessons from Rod there Pat.


  13. - Anonymous - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 2:56 pm:

    I wish the republicans had gotten their act together to issue this a year ago– or at least before the election. But maybe they realized that the state is moving ahead and it is time that they engage. I find it interesting and revealing that both Cullerton and Madigan have publicly considered some pension and tax reform ideas from the republican playbook recently, making the republicans themselves even less relevant as long as they pout in the corner. Of course, Quinn’s typically knee-jerk response just shows how out of touch he really is. How about that ‘education surcharge’ there, governor?


  14. - wordslinger - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 2:56 pm:

    Just saw the update. What a bonehead thing to say.

    You can’t scream for people to get in the game and then cut them off when they do.

    Quinn needs to reverse and in a hurry.


  15. - George - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 2:58 pm:

    Jim F. - Sorry - you are new here. So I guess I can forgive your eagerness and smugness.

    There isn’t $5 billion of reality in this document. And I ain’t no spring chicken.


  16. - Ghost of John Brown - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 2:58 pm:

    === It’s gonna be a long four years, campers. ===

    I’m getting that Blago-de-ja-vu all over again. I’m putting the over/under on the budget at July.


  17. - Old Milwaukee - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 2:59 pm:

    George,
    Looks like the Republicans should put George down as a “no”.


  18. - Razer - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 3:00 pm:

    “I’m not sure how you can freeze pay and change holiday pay when 95 percent of state workers are covered under a union contract.”
    See: Wisconsin does the right thing!


  19. - Responsa - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 3:04 pm:

    Quinn’s reassuring reporters? Reporters?


  20. - Jim F - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 3:08 pm:

    George - My smugness is reserved for the supporters of the status-quo disaster that is Quinn fiscal policy.


  21. - George - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 3:08 pm:

    But even though they are calling for cuts of “only 12.5%”, that $1.3 billion in cuts to Medicaid would = about 1 million kids @ a cost to the state of about $1,250/kid/year.


  22. - Esquire - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 3:09 pm:

    Which state holidays will be eliminated?


  23. - John Bambenek - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 3:13 pm:

    You know what the difference between Quinn and the SGOP is? At least the SGOP will cut you on the front end so you know what you are working with for the year. Quinn will tell you that you get something and March tell you the funds are gone, and that’s assuming he doesn’t extend the payment cycle a few more months.


  24. - Jim F - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 3:13 pm:

    George - Yes, the Senate Republicans are coming for the children. They are always coming for the children.

    The suggested Medicaid cuts include a whole host of potential savings. But sure, if you say so, they are coming for the children.


  25. - George - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 3:14 pm:

    Esquire - Christmas is cancelled.


  26. - Leave a light on George - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 3:15 pm:

    How about election day, Columbus day, and take your pick of one - Lincoln or Washington’s B’day


  27. - George - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 3:16 pm:

    Also, another bit of hilarity:

    “As an example of a rapidly growing component of education, the supplemental poverty grant portion of the general state aid formula has increased by almost 250% in the last eight years from just under $400 million in FY03 to $1.35 billion in FY11. This growth cannot be sustained.”

    After reading this, I am pretty sure they have no idea what poverty grant portion of the school aid formula actually is or does.


  28. - wordslinger - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 3:17 pm:

    From Quinn’s initial reaction, he must have had Louisville going to the Final 4 in his brackets.

    So did I. Having your brackets trashed before the first day is even half over can you-know-what a Good Humor man.


  29. - Roadiepig - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 3:24 pm:

    Jim F. -

    I don’t think you read what I wrote ( or just enjoy sarcasm). Of course cuts will have to be made. We can’t print our own money as a state so something has to give. But using the state budget crisis to enact long time conservative dreams wont happen in a state that isn’t run by Republicans. Hopefully Cullerton is being honest when he says this will open the dialog for working together to solve this crisis,even if it means giving up some negotiated benefits in the short term.


  30. - Liandro - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 3:24 pm:

    It was my understanding that All Kids and some of the other Blago expansions don’t qualify, or don’t qualify fully, for federal matching aid. Guess this means I have to do some research. =o


  31. - CircularFiringSquad - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 3:30 pm:

    Let’s remind all of a little history
    Back in January all 4 caucuses were involved in Medicaid reform bills….one passed. It will save $500 million. Other cuts were rejected by the GOPs who wet themselves with changes that would push grandma ( who has spent down her assets) off the welfar rolls.
    Perhaps they think no one will remember.
    Fire,Aim, Ready


  32. - formerpolitico - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 3:35 pm:

    Union contracts are made to be broken. I mean, what has stopped the state from breaching payment contracts to all manner of vendors?! Let ‘em sue. The state is broke. They will get a judgment that IS WORTHLESS. Why are union contracts any different?


  33. - George - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 3:35 pm:

    Jim - if you don’t cut children, who are you going to cut? Seniors? The blind? The disabled?

    My point is that the idea that you can save that much in Medicaid without kicking a HUGE number of people off healthcare is just silly.

    The proposed Medicaid cuts did not include a whole host of savings - The vast majority of their suggestions (and the only real cost savings) are cutting people off healthcare in some shape or form. Illinois already pays doctors next to nothing.


  34. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 3:38 pm:

    formerpolitico, if the state unilaterally breaks a union contract it risks significant labor unrest as well as very likely court action. It ain’t as easy as you may think. Go read the public employee labor relations act.


  35. - Jim F - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 3:39 pm:

    George,

    The poverty grant portion of the school aid formula is an add-on to the original formula that has nothing to do with equalizing resources between school districts, which is exactly what the school aid formula is supposed to do. It was created to get more money to the City of Chicago school district and it is very effective in doing so. The rapidly rising cost of this portion of the budget is based on the State Board of Education’s own numbers. Senate Republicans are willing to look at this program and try to keep its growth under control.

    Also, George, this proposal was put forward by Governor Quinn’s own Taxpayer Action Board. It is not a thought unique to Senate Republicans.

    George, you bore me. Democrats smart, Republukans dum. Got it.


  36. - Louis G. Atsaves - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 3:41 pm:

    Quinn isn’t ruling out dialogue with the Senate GOP, he just isn’t listening to them.

    (Snark!)

    Will WLS radio be offering him a microphone gig next?


  37. - Anonymous - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 3:41 pm:

    This is the Land of Lincoln and everyone should have Lincoln’s Birthday off - public and private. However, I would be happy to lose any 3 of the following: Martin Luther King Day, President’s Day, Columbus Day, Election Day (only get it off every other year, though) and Veteran’s Day. I have always wondered why these are holidays for state employees/ school districts. However, mess with my pension - a constitutionally bound contract - and we’re talkin’ law-suit time.


  38. - Anonymous ZZZ - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 3:42 pm:

    Roadiepig says:

    “The unions won’t agree to breaking their contracts , as they shouldn’t. Compromise should happen if they come up with something more reasonable.”

    But the problem is, the union doesn’t ever seem to consider ANY concessions “reasonable.” Has the union come out and said what they would be willing to give up?


  39. - Responsa - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 3:45 pm:

    At any point are people going to be able to look beyond their own partisan team identities–get past the idea of “winning” and “losing” on every issue–and open both their eyes and their minds, so that all that must be done for the state’s survival can eventually be done?


  40. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 3:46 pm:

    ===Has the union come out and said what they would be willing to give up? ===

    They postponed their raises last year and did come up with at least two lists of budget cuts. While they’re still pretty hardline, they have shown more willingness to deal than in the past.


  41. - Jim F - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 3:46 pm:

    roadiepig - Sorry if I was a little too nasty. Glad you agree we need to cut. Now the debate can begin as to exactly how.


  42. - JustaJoe - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 3:55 pm:

    Don’t get caught up in talking about HEADCOUNT. These guys ALL have played that game forever. The discussion should be overall cost of programs or at least overall payroll costs. If state employee “headcount” goes down, only to be replaced by more costly “consultants” or workers under contract, is anything really saved?


  43. - dupage dan - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 3:56 pm:

    Mr Bambenek,

    PQ is counting on folks having a short memory.


  44. - steve schnorf - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 3:57 pm:

    Those of you who want to can be as partisan and snide as you wish, but I believe the Senate Rs have put some doable ideas on the table, and, really for the first time, they concede that cuts will cause pain. That is a big step forward for a caucus that had too many members still stuck in the waste and fraud days.

    Obviously some of their ideas aren’t going to happen in a vacuum. The governor can’t freeze the pay of most state employees, and probably can’t unilaterally or legislatively force them to pay more for health care or pensions. And, he probably can’t impose changes in the retirement benefits of already vested employees (Cullerton has also said that idea doesn’t fly). The Rs don’t appear to report that those very points were also made in the TAB report. I think those things are in their mainly as red meat for the very conservative caucus members and their constituents.

    Leaving those things aside, I still see at least 3 or 4 B of real, doable, difficult cuts that Leader Radogno says the Rs can produce half of the votes needed to pass. Good for her and her caucus. I think this is how government is supposed to work.


  45. - Cincinnatus - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 3:58 pm:

    Jim F,

    Apparently, George is of the school, shared by virtually all Democrats, that no good intention goes unfunded.


  46. - Anonymous - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 3:59 pm:

    There were three cuts I was surprised to not see on the republican list: cutting Natural Resources (or moving it to user fee-based funding), cutting Transportation and Capital Development (since the state’s capital projects have been moribund for a decade now), and eliminating DCEO (replaced by agency-directed grants).


  47. - Jim F - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 4:02 pm:

    Cinci - Nice!


  48. - Cincinnatus - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 4:02 pm:

    From Update 3,

    “Under the Governor’s leadership…”

    BWAHAHAH. Funniest. Quote. Ever.


  49. - Responsa - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 4:05 pm:

    I do wish Gov. Quinn’s press office had waited a bit longer to carefully think through and craft his response. Would a day or two of, “we’re evaluating the proposals” have killed him? Immediately putting his foot on the throat of this gigantic proposal has effectively negated any arguments that the opposition party should/must come to the table with ideas. Why even bother.


  50. - steve schnorf - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 4:19 pm:

    Rich, a postponed raise only helps solve a cash flow problem, which isn’t why we are in trouble, it is only a consequence of us being in trouble. Our trouble is that we spend more than we take in, and that’s still our problem even after the tax increase. That can only be solved by permanent not temporary changes in spending or revenue.


  51. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 4:21 pm:

    steve, I’m aware of that. Point being that they’d never really done anything like that before while a contract was in effect.


  52. - steve schnorf - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 4:23 pm:

    Maybe this will work out OK. The Ds do the heavy lifting on the revenue increase and now the Rs offer to do their part on the last piece of the cuts, which none but the most conservative are going to consider good, not bad. I think at least some of the Rs are saying, bad but necessary, which was essentially what many of the Ds said on the tax increase.


  53. - Huh? - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 4:26 pm:

    There was an article in the SJR about a family on All Kids. I don’t want to pick on them because I understand why they would sign up. The father made 90,000 a year the mother stayed home and the kids went to private school. They qualified. I think everyone should have health care but I was a little surprised they would qualify. They took a beating in the comments at SJR which isnt fair and I know Rich won’t allow it. Just telling you what was reported. So maybe the requirements should be relooked at or the family should pay a little more than others. I’m not sure but I think this is a good area to look at esp. since Blago was in charge when it happened.


  54. - Is He Still Hiding Under the Desk? - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 4:27 pm:

    When will Tom Cross come to the table with some real cuts? Will his caucus be willing to cut education too? And how is that pension reform bill of his coming along? Will he have hearings?


  55. - Louis G. Atsaves - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 4:27 pm:

    Update Comment 2x

    Quinn isn’t ruling out dialogue with the Senate GOP, he just isn’t listening to them, but does appreciates their effort.

    (Somehow his response isn’t getting better).

    Perhaps he should try “Sorry about my rash and ill-thought comment over their proposal. I look forward to meaningful discussions with all four leadership caucuses over this proposal and others in the near future.”


  56. - anon - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 4:35 pm:

    I would love to see what 15 Repubs vote to reduce sharing of revenues with local governments. I assume it wouldn’t be a bill that reduced Chicago’s share while keeping cities south of I-80 whole…


  57. - Earnest - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 4:38 pm:

    I hope the Governor’s statement from the third update is something he takes to heart himself, since he has already proposed reducing Medicaid Waiver rates for next fiscal year, thus leaving federal match dollars on the table.

    Good for the R’s in coming up with some details–hopefully this is the start of some thoughtful approaches to making difficult decisions.


  58. - wordslinger - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 4:38 pm:

    –the Unions were bought and paid for prior to the last election–

    Not that I agree with you, but don’t you mean Quinn was bought and paid for by the unions? I could be wrong. I had Louisville in the Final 4.


  59. - George - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 4:57 pm:

    Hilarious that you think I am some partisan Democratic operative, but anyway…

    Steve, I would disagree with you about this statement: “really for the first time, they concede that cuts will cause pain”

    Their listed cuts do not face the direct consequences of their actions. Just like IPI, they through out large percentages to cut in budgets with a great pronouncement, but little explanation of what that will actually mean to the number of people being excluded from healthcare, or teachers fired.

    As if these departments will just reduce the amount of paper and toner cartridges they buy.

    But I agree with you that this is the first time they have put their money where their mouth is on cuts, and pledged to put votes behind it.

    I don’t agree that there are $4 billion in cuts here at all, but maybe this will push the legislature to take an active role in budget management on the cut side, and get rid of these lump sum punts they keep doing. I could see $500-$1 billion, which is what we likely will see this year.


  60. - Bubs - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 4:58 pm:

    I’m happy to see the Republicans finally get in the fight, even if the proposals are not perfect.


  61. - Old Milwaukee - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 5:13 pm:

    I’m in agreement with Schnorf. I see a lot of cuts that can really happen and will truly save money if representatives are willing to do them.


  62. - Kasich Walker, Jr.'s Hemp Circle & School of Dance - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 5:35 pm:

    Do we love Illinois? Do we? Of course we do.

    All Illinoisans, only keep your first $100,000 after paying Uncle Sam. Give the rest to our Land of Lincoln.


  63. - Jim - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 5:44 pm:

    If the state went to a 401K-type pension like the Rs suggest wouldn’t the state also have to then make a social security payment? What % would that payment be?


  64. - surrounded by corn - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 5:45 pm:

    so if reducing medicaid eligibilty can’t be done because it runs afoul of the federal healthcare law, and if you’re of the opinion that pension benefits can’t be reduced for current employees, doesn’t that blow $2.6b of savings out of the water?


  65. - Concerned Voter - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 6:09 pm:

    Does that menu of cuts mention anywhere to eliminate CMS?


  66. - Park - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 6:51 pm:

    Pat Quinn meant exactly what he said. And yes, it is going to be a long, long four years. Illinois is paying for the sin of electing Blago.

    This man is incapable of solving a problem. And incapable of cutting a social program, no matter how wasteful or ridiculous. Either MJM or Cullerton is going to have to take charge of government (both if possible). Or non-Chicago dems are going to have to join with R’s to form a coalition. Otherwise, we’re going to be a laughing stock. Again.


  67. - mom of teens - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 7:00 pm:

    I like most of the Republican senators’ ideas. I do wish there was a way to cut education funding only out of teachers’ raises, rather than ending up with teacher layoffs that result in larger classes and program cuts. One thing I especially like is the senators’ point to stop borrowing. The governor’s plan to sell bonds to cover the budget but not pay the bonds back for many years just means my 2 teenage kids will be paying my generation’s bills plus interest. We’re the adults now, we need to act like adults and get our financial house in order.


  68. - Park - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 7:01 pm:

    Just to be clear, I’m not talking about a 3d world-type coup, just control all the GA con. And, MJM, don’t return his calls either.


  69. - Old Milwaukee - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 7:02 pm:

    A lot of Democrats are on here saying no we can’t, when just two years ago they were all saying yes we can. You guys need your optimism back. These cuts can be made. The contract can be reopened, if Pat Quinn wants to. Medicaid can be scaled back without losing all of our federal money. Yes, we can. Yes, we can.


  70. - G'Mac - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 7:20 pm:

    It appears that the state employees are being targeted again. We already put a hold on raises and now they want us to do it again!! They have stolen from our pension system and owe it billons of dollars. they need to pay back the state pension system.


  71. - wordslinger - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 7:33 pm:

    –A lot of Democrats are on here saying no we can’t, when just two years ago they were all saying yes we can.–

    What a magnificent turn of phrase, really top notch. Been waiting for a while to unleash that one?

    What’s a lot? How many do you count? I count, at most, two. And the issues raised are substantive, not dopey zingers or tedious talking points.

    I’ll second what Schnorf said about silly, childish partisanship. For the first time in a long while, there seems to be the makings a serious bipartisan discussion on public and fiscal policy. It should be encouraged, not strangled in the crib by Fox/MSNBC, high school nonsense.

    Of that, we’re flush. A bountiful surplus. Let’s move on to the heavy lifting of the deficit.


  72. - steve schnorf - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 7:37 pm:

    George, you are inferring. I am quoting from the R handout;

    “Difficult but Necessary
    There is no pretending that reducing spending will be easy or painless.”


  73. - Budget Watcher - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 8:00 pm:

    …This man is incapable of solving a problem. And incapable of cutting a social program, no matter how wasteful or ridiculous.

    Just a reality check…the SJR ran a front page story today on the Quinn’s proposed elimination of the low-income senior drug assistance program, Illinois Cares Rx (apparently we’ve stopped caring). Not a ridiculous program if you’re old & poor, but maybe so if you’re less than 65.


  74. - rdb - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 8:33 pm:

    Will Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno and the other Senate Republicans make the same cuts to their retirement benefits and increases to their health insurance premiums that they are suggesting for others?


  75. - Kasich Walker, Jr.'s Hemp Circle & School of Dance - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 8:39 pm:

    I can’t believe all this fuss over a mere $6.7 billion. Seems like 12.8 million Illinoisans could cough up a little over $500 each for the state they lovingly call home.

    If spending levels aren’t cut after that one year kick in, go for about 22.3 million ounces of pot sold at $300 per ounce and taxed at 10%.


  76. - Old Milwaukee - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 8:49 pm:

    Wordslinger,
    It is difficult to keep up with you since it seems this blog is your homepage. I’m very busy, but since you laid out the challenge I took the time to go back and look at comments.

    George at 2:39 and subsequent posts. Roadiepig at 2:42. Razer at 3:00. And Surrounded by corn at 5:45. Not counting Rich’s own comments about the union contract. All casting doubt on whether cuts can be made. They can.

    The Yes we can thing was humor. Enjoy the rest of the night on Rich’s blog.


  77. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 8:52 pm:

    ===They have stolen from our pension system ===

    Right outta the AFSCME phrasebook. Yeah, they didn’t make pension payments or skimped on pension payments because they were squandering most of that hot cash on education and healthcare.

    What’s done is done. Time for a fix. You people are like southerners who can’t get over the Civil War.


  78. - Union member - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 9:05 pm:

    AFSCME agreed to defer raised, which were negotiated in good faith, both last year and again this year. As a result I will not be able to retire in December at over age 65 with almost 30 years, but will have to work next year also. By the way, that’s thirty years of making my share of the pension contribution.

    I am an attorney with the State and was inspired by JFK to go into public service. I thought I could afford to do it with a much lower salary than in the private sector because I’m “low maintenance” and promises were made to me regarding retirement benefits.

    I have been an attorney with the State for 22 years and have done a good job. I still don’t make what a brand new attorney would in the private sector.

    If you want to treat me like someone in the private sector my salary should have been at least 20 times what it is now. Then I could afford to handle my golden years on own.


  79. - Liberty First - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 9:11 pm:

    I noticed the Republicans went after professors and high tuition without a word about the hidden costs of sports, ballooning administration and non academic expenses. I don’t see anything wrong with changing the pension system as long as they don’t touch already earned benefits. Public employees have lost many benefits and there have been quite a number of pension changes over the years. SURS already has a defined contribution. That too is a short term fix for when the economy picks up again, there will be an exodus of skilled workers from the state.


  80. - Jo - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 9:19 pm:

    Steve, I think George was getting the same feelings I was from statements like these from the R playbook:

    ” so the targeted savings of 12.5% can be achieved while retaining essential safety net programs and services”

    ” making the targeted savings of 7.5% realistic without jeopardizing essential services”

    ” under the reasonable assumption that if Illinois citizens managed for 185 years without a particular state program, the program may not be essential to the operation of state government”


  81. - steve schnorf - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 9:43 pm:

    Let’s not get confused about SURS “defined contribution” program.

    Remember, it takes several years to vest, depending on the system, and a LONG time to max out. The major universities came to the state and said many of their best faculty recruits didn’t value the then current SURS pension plan because they didn’t stay at one place long enough to vest much less max, and they needed something portable. That’s when and why the program was added.


  82. - Bemused - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 10:03 pm:

    Been watching the comments in this section today and letting it all roll around in my head. The 8:52 comment by Rich was interesting and of course correct. I think even more so as time goes on. In another section someone infered the State and Union Leadership were in cahoots on the pension funding debacale. I think that is a stretch but the Union boys may have turned a blind eye to the problem secure in the knowledge the State was not going anywhere and would have to pay up. Now the sheer size of the deficit argues against that being the case. I am sure others will correct me where I am wrong, but paying that debt off will require stiff tax hikes and or severe cuts in other areas of the budget. Social service people will howl to the moon. The anti-union crowd will join the chorus and the State Folk will learn the same lesson as thier private sector brothers.


  83. - Kasich Walker, Jr.'s Anit-Saloon League Golf Outing Committee - Thursday, Mar 17, 11 @ 10:55 pm:

    How many households are there in Illinois: 5 million? That’s about $1350 per household. I’m guessing more cash goes out of each home per year from each Illinois household to cover pay TV.

    This is not a back breaker and no cause to bust unions.


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