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*** UPDATED x1 - React rolls in *** Here we go again

Friday, Apr 29, 2011

*** UPDATE *** The reaction to Gov. Quinn’s plan is about as negative as one might’ve expected

Suburban lawmakers and mayors Friday ripped Gov. Pat Quinn’s plan to take tax money away from communities unless lawmakers let him borrow cash to pay state bills, with one senator calling the tactic “blackmail.”

“(He) is trying to basically blackmail mayors … by saying ‘Hey, I’m going to withhold your money if you don’t beat up your local legislator to go along with my latest borrowing scheme,” said Sen. Ron Sandack, a Downers Grove Republican. […]

“It is unconscionable to say that we’re not going to pay units of local government their money,” said Sen. Kirk Dillard, a Hinsdale Republican. “He wants to punish local governments who in most cases have made budget cuts that Pat Quinn could only dream of.”

Dillard is among the Senate Republicans who have advanced a host of budget cutting proposals in recent months that included cutting back on what communities get from the state. The GOP says, though, that those cuts are options, and not ever Republican backs every choice.

However, Speaker Madigan’s spokesman said this afternoon that the Speaker has always tried to help the governor balance the budget and would continue to do so. Whatever that means.

[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* Remember last year when Gov. Pat Quinn tried to gin up support for his tax hike by threatening to cut education spending? It didn’t work. In fact, it backfired.

His latest scheme reminds me of that

Gov. Pat Quinn wants to stop nearly $100 million in monthly payments to Chicago, the suburbs and other Illinois towns if lawmakers won’t let him borrow billions of dollars to pay overdue bills, according to a confidential memo the Tribune obtained Thursday.

The idea drew immediate blowback from local leaders worried about balancing their own budgets in a sluggish economy. […]

The proposal, outlined in the memo and quietly distributed to top legislators, represents a pressure tactic by the Democratic governor. He hopes mayors from Zion to Cairo will squeeze their town’s lawmakers to help get him the loan he wants.

But the General Assembly’s leadership has been highly skeptical of Quinn’s other recent plans for big borrowing. They also might not be keen on a plan that would punish communities back home and potentially result in a flood of phone calls and chanting protesters outside their district offices.

The Illinois Municipal League cranked up its defensive posture early this year to Cuban Missile Crisis levels in response to plans by the Senate Republicans and others to cut their revenue sharing. So, they’re already fully prepared to leap to a response. Also, I seriously doubt that Mayor-Elect Emanuel will just let this one slide.

* Meanwhile

The tone in the committee room changed once DHS said it would cut more in the community services it provides, and close down two state schools in Jacksonville — the Illinois School for the Deaf and the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired. […]

“I don’t know who is more vulnerable in Illinois, tell me who they are,” said State Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Highland, in a heated discussion during a committee meeting. “Bring in your AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) employees and have them stand before us, and tell us that they are more vulnerable than the people at these facilities.”

DHS Secretary Michelle Saddler said the workload for employees has doubled due to layoffs, and that DHS employees have received pay raises that total up to $47 million.

Republicans are blaming the proposed cuts on AFSCME’s contract, which calls for almost $50 milllion in raises at DHS. But they know full well that the contract cannot legally be reopened without AFSCME’s consent. And DHS’ proposed budget cut for next year is $388 million. That dwarfs the pay raises.

The threat to close down the facilities may just be yet another scare tactic. But, the Republicans cannot on the one hand constantly demand deep state spending cuts and on the other hand decry every attempt to do so. Sen. Ron Sandack, for instance, issued a glowing review of the SGOP budget cut proposals, yet recently sent a letter to his colleagues saying he’s against cutting local revenue sharing because he’s a mayor.

Human service programs are one of the biggest areas in the budget. You can’t make deep budget cuts without cutting human services

“The problem here is 80 percent of the budget goes for Medicaid, human services, education and paying the (state’s) debt, so those are the only areas in which the budget can be cut,” Nowlan said.

That’s Budgeting 101.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Retired Non-Union Guy - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 6:56 am:

    Agreed those are the big ticket items and cuts will have to be made there. But I have trouble believing they can’t find that amount in the Medicaid budget. Start by reviewing eligibility for the program, if that doesn’t generate enough savings then look at rolling back Illinois rules to match the Federal rules. If you can’t figure out where that is, just look at every program Blago expanded … and roll it back.

  2. - Give Me A Break - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 7:23 am:

    The behavior of Reps. Stephens and Watson at the DHS hearing was nothing more than grandstanding. Maybe Watson should explain to his Teabagger Senator that this what massive cuts look like. Stephens got caught up in the moment and than all the GOP committee members joined in the “let’s bash Secretary Saddler and tell her to open the AFSCME contract” party.

    Stephens might want to think twice before he goes off on another DHS Division Director who is disabled himself and uses a chair and accuses him of not caring about people with disabilities.

  3. - CircularFiring Squad - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 7:47 am:

    Maybe someone ( insert of any reformer or investigative reporter here) should FOI list of jobholders at the schools and line it up next to the RXRon and Watson contributors’ lists. Check spouses and children too.

    While the schools do a great job there have been great non profession patronage & vendor opportunities too.

    Meanwhile hats off to PQ for stealing the focus from the Republicans. They had managed to incur the wrath of local officials — who are largely their political allies. Now the Senate GOPers can point to PQ as a the great Satan. Interesting strategy.

  4. - thechampaignlife - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 8:07 am:

    Who has to sign off on collective bargaining contracts? The governor? The agency director? Seems like the voters need some representation on that, perhaps the Senate having to approve it like they do for appointments.

    On the cuts to the local sharing, I say make the cuts and give the local municipalities authorization to make up the difference with a one-time, capped tax increase without the tax caps/referendum restriction. That effectively increases the state’s tax rate without actually doing it and spreads the political heat out among every municipal leader rather than it all being focused on the GA.

  5. - Michelle Flaherty - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 8:15 am:

    I’m with the champaignlife.
    The GOP seems to love Indiana so do what they do:
    Authorize local income taxes. All a city council or village has to do is vote to enact local income taxes. Simple.
    State taxes fund the state, local taxes fund the local.
    Who could be against the Mitch Daniels way?

  6. - Cincinnatus - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 8:30 am:

    Here’s a 2009 study that puts the state Medicaid program in perspective.

  7. - Quacktastic - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 8:36 am:

    Why won’t the union agree to reopen the contract. Other states and municipalities unions have done their fair part. Yes their $50 million in raises is a lot less that then the proposed $388 million, but lets put that $50 million back towards the care of the state’s most vulnerable citizens.

  8. - wordslinger - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 8:40 am:

    Big cuts aren’t pretty. Careful what you ask for, you might get it.

  9. - Ahoy - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 9:31 am:

    We need to look at across the board cuts instead of targeting human services. In the end this is just political grandstanding. Quinn targets all his cuts in one area, scares people and in the end there are no cuts. Why is education getting a couple hundred million more while human services is getting several hundred million less?

    I doubt ASFME will reopen the contract without some concession. I think we need to just ride it out for the next year and the State needs to negotiate its next contract extremely hard… we should probably prepare for a shutdown.

  10. - Demoralized - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 9:51 am:


    State workers can’t strike. If there is no contract in place they would work under the old one until a new one was negotiated. If they didn’t they would not get paid and I’m sure nobody would do that.

  11. - steve schnorf - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 10:24 am:

    ws, amen! Boy, people, even on here, have a hard time connecting the dots between “there have to be cuts” and “here are cuts”.

  12. - Michelle Flaherty - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 10:41 am:

    To extrapolate:
    Quinn’s threatening to withold state money for Cairo unless lawmakers play ball with his borrowing plan.
    Brilliant strategy. And here I thought the Missouri House Speaker was heartless and clueless.

  13. - Anonymous - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 11:20 am:

    So, to review: Quinn first starves human service providers to have them fight his budget fight for him. That fails. Then, Quinn does the same for education– that backfires hugely, and he blames everybody except his own budget proposal. Now, he is going to threaten local municipalities expecting them to help him on borrowing.

    For a guy who sells himself as having a big heart, that all seems pretty heartless and calculated. I wonder when his natural allies will realize he consistently throws them under the bus to further his goals?

  14. - dave - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 11:49 am:

    Quinn’s threatening to withold state money for Cairo unless lawmakers play ball with his borrowing plan.

    Huh? That is quite a distortion.

  15. - dave - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 11:51 am:

    I wonder when his natural allies will realize he consistently throws them under the bus to further his goals?

    Well… his goals (i.e. borrowing) are the same goals that his “natural allies” have.

  16. - Nadigam - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 12:04 pm:

    While the original contract was negociated by Blago, Quinn has a piece of the action too. He said he would fire thousands of employees if the union did not renegociate. What happened? A silly thing called an election (Twice). Quinn folded like an accordian to save his job.

    Total Union raises are in the range of $350 MILLION. So I think the Repubs are saying cut services yes but services are cut even more because of these raises.

  17. - piling on - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 12:21 pm:

    Quinn is is saying he’ll stop sharing state tax money with local govts unless lawmakers pass his borrowing plan.
    Cairo is a local government.

  18. - dave - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 12:42 pm:

    He said he would fire thousands of employees if the union did not renegociate. What happened? A silly thing called an election (Twice).

    Actually, no. What happened was they opened the contract and made concessions. But hey, don’t let facts get in the way.

    Quinn is is saying he’ll stop sharing state tax money with local govts unless lawmakers pass his borrowing plan. Cairo is a local government.

    I am aware of that, but to imply that Quinn is holding money specifically from Cairo until politicians play ball is more than a little disingenuous.

  19. - Cook County Commoner - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 12:44 pm:

    I’m starting to think that Illinois’ fiscal problems have no political resolution, unless the economy miraculously picks up overnite. I work with people everyday to help them with investments, and I don’t see a lot of slack to absorb additional taxation. On the other hand, I don’t approve of cutting benefits to the truly needy. We saw this age dominated demographic rolling at us for years and did nothing. Now we have seniors in their early 60s, laid off and on Medicaid because they are too young for Medicare. I see that a lot. Like government, individuals saved too, too little. I hear nothing from my state rep or senator, as usual. So, I expect that we’ll get right up to the precipice before anything is done. In my view, the state’s only salvation is to realize it must restructure itself to be inviting to business, including going to a “right to work” bias and business friendly tax and regulation structure. Also, the state and local govs must re-review the use of gov employees to provide services, especially education. And maybe it’s time folks that can should pay more to educate their children in public schools. Gov employee retirement benefits must be looked at, including the growing bill for pension and healthcare. Most or all the necessary changes will require opening the state constitution, which is unlikely. Which is why Illinois must get closer or go over the precipice before change will occur.

  20. - Sue - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 4:40 pm:

    It continues to amaze me that anyone expects Quinn to do anything to deal with the state’s budget other then to borrow more money- He is incapable of making decisions on budget cuts which might possibly undermine his support from his Union controllers- Any progress Illinois might make while we have Quinn as the munchkin Gov will have to come from Madigan/Cross and Cullerton(in a distant third)

  21. - Former State Employee - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 4:46 pm:

    I was at that hearing yesterday, and Ron Stephens pretended to be a liberal, of sorts, in blasting cuts to the two schools. However, he was blasting the wrong guy. The Division Administrator, in a wheelchair, is a highly respected advocate for people in all the programs under his jurisdiction. Shame on Ron. Pick a fight somewhere else!

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