Tri States Public Radio Staff
Wed June 24, 2009
Lawmakers Head Home Without Budget (Again)
Springfield, IL – Illinois lawmakers wrapped up a brief stay at the state capitol without agreement on a new budget. Meanwhile, Governor Pat Quinn is giving mixed signals on what he'll do as the new fiscal year approaches.
Quinn continues to call for an income tax increase to deal with the state's record deficit, but he still lacks the necessary support to get it approved. After months of painting a doomsday scenario for social service agencies if there's no additional revenue, Quinn now seems to be back pedaling.
"I want to say, as governor, we're not going to permit that kind of approach of slash and burn to human services that are vitally necesssary," says Quinn.
Quinn is hearing from lawmakers who want him to go along with a temporary budget. Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) says it would ease the minds of those who rely on services.
"What's going on now is cruel. It's cynical and it doesn't need to be happening," says Radogno.
Some of those social service agencies remain concerned. One is Bridgeway in Macomb. Financial Comptroller Jim Bloom says programs and jobs will be cut if the state does not back off a plan to cut funding by 25%.
"Last month we laid off 10 people to try balancing our budget," says Bloom. "And now we're looking at 163 more. That could spell the end of Bridgeway."
Bridgeway employs 400 people. It assists 10,000 people with mental health and developmental disabilities.
Bloom says a hike in the state income tax would generate money to help the agency avoid making cuts.
Some Republican lawmakers are signaling they might be on board for a tax hike. But like GOP colleagues who are adamantly opposed to raising taxes, they also want more cuts to state spending.
State Representative Jim Watson (R-Jacksonville) says he can't make any promises. But he says he's willing to vote for a tax hike if Democrats agree to some spending reforms.
"Oh sure. I think we all have to look at it realistically," says Watson. "You can't tax your way out, you can't cut your way out. So you're going to move to the middle and find a combination. I think a lot of my colleagues on the Republican side of the aisle do want to see a lot of reforms."
Watson says a major issue is Medicaid. Republicans want to switch to a managed care system.
Watson says the G-O-P is also suggesting a temporary freeze on new state-funded programs to avoid the need for more tax hikes in a few years.
Governor Quinn says no matter the budget outcome, there will be shared sacrifice. He talked about state employee layoffs and asking government workers to take up to 12 furlough days in the coming year.
Lawmakers will return to capitol Monday. That will leave them just two days before the end of the fiscal year to figure out a solution.
Portions of this story courtesy of Illinois Public Radio