The Illinois General Assembly has a few tasks that it has to perform every year.
One of those is putting together a balanced state budget. Despite being “in session” since January, the budget that appears to be headed to Gov. Pat Quinn’s desk isn’t really balanced and was passed through the House so quickly that few, if any, members had a chance to study the 1,100-page document.
It’s also not a realistic budget. It employs a bunch of one-time financial and budgeting maneuvers that remind many of the Rod Blagojevich administration.
In addition, it makes no provisions for contracted wage increases or other increased costs. The budget practically guarantees that the state’s stack of unpaid bills, which has been whittled to $4.1 billion, will increase.
The path to this budget wasn’t an easy one. Quinn, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton supported making the temporary income tax rates permanent and using that money to approve a budget of about $38 billion. When House Democrats made it clear they weren’t going to support a tax increase right before an election, a so-called “doomsday” budget received only five votes in the House.
So the result is a $35.7 billion budget that one top Senate aide said is held together by “bailing wire and Band-aids.”
Actually calling this document a budget is generous. It’s really just a placeholder so that the tough decisions can be made after the November elections.
We have heard many of the Democrats say consistently that it’s impossible to cut the budget enough to make up for the lower tax revenues caused by rolling back the tax rates. But then we get another story, like the one by Springfield Bureau Chief Kurt Erickson, that millions of dollars have been spent in Medicaid payments to dead people. The savings are there; the General Assembly just needs to look for them.
Taxpayers and voters deserve a legislative body that takes its budgeting responsibilities seriously and understands the concept of living within its means. While we applaud those House members who refused to go along with the tax increases, we’re disappointed that they were not able to take the next step and develop a budget that addressed the state’s financial issues.