Political Rewind: Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn Unveils Budget Plan

It's always good to be caught up on state politics. Here's an easy guide to what happened this week.

Editor's Note: This article was created by aggregating news articles from Illinois Statehouse News that were written by various Illinois Statehouse News reporters.

ISN Puts Illinois Proposed Budget through Math Check

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn's budget proposal tops 400 pages and is more than 3 inches thick. 

Inside the governor's plan for the next fiscal year, which begins in June, are the details of how he wants to spend $33.9 billion in taxpayers’ money.  

Illinois Statehouse News examines the governor's plan, speaking with lawmakers and outside experts and checking Quinn's math to make sure that dollars add up.  

 Bigger than last year 

Quinn’s fiscal 2013 spending plan is $700 million more than the current budget, an increase that will pay for the increase in the state's public employee pension payment.

"Our pension payment is increasing a little over $1 billion this year," said Quinn’s Budget Director David Vaught. Illinois will owe $5.9 billion in the upcoming year. 

While spending has increased, Quinn is attempting to live within the state’s means, said Laurence Msall, president of the Chicago-based fiscal policy watchdog group, Civic Federation.

"The governor's proposed spending is less than projected state revenues," said Msall. "And that is a step in the right direction." 

The Legislature's Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability on Tuesday predicted Illinois will take in $34.3 billion in tax revenue in fiscal 2013. 

Medicaid cut 

Quinn’s proposed spending plan maintains the status quo on spending for human services — including Medicaid — holding strong at $14 billion. 

"Illinois spent $14 billion on human services and Medicaid last year, at the same time the state had $15.9 billion in liabilities,"  said Jerry Stermer, Quinn's special adviser on Medicaid. "Illinois has to cut $2.7 billion from human services and Medicaid in the next budget, because the state simply cannot afford to spend $14 billion on $16.7 billion in liabilities." 

The governor has not said how Illinois will make such a large cut. 

Danny Chun, spokesman for the Illinois Hospital Association, which lobbies for almost all of Illinois hospitals, said that last year Quinn wanted to trim the amount paid to hospitals for Medicaid services. He said he fears that is the plan again. 

"Governor Quinn wanted a 6 percent cut to save $550 million on Medicaid," Chun said. "To get to $2.7 billion in savings, hospitals would see a 24 percent rate cut." 

Chun said a cut that large would be devastating.

"In Illinois, one in three hospitals, or 70 of the 200 in the state, are losing money," Chun said. "A dramatic cut in Medicaid reimbursement may force some hospitals to close." 

Stermer said no decision has been made about a rate, but "everything is on the table." 

Facility closings 

Quinn's budget estimates that closing 14 facilities and consolidating dozens more could save the state close to $100 million a year.  

"That's not just one year savings," said Vaught. "That's $100 million next year, and the year after that, and the year after that." 

The closings would transition residents from state institutions like the Jacksonville Developmental Center in Jacksonville and the Tinley Park Mental Health Center in Tinley Park to community care. 

The governor also is proposing to close the Tamms and Dwight Correctional Centers, and the Youth Centers in Murphysboro and Joliet.

State Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, whose district includes one of the youth centers considered for closure, said the governor is counting on savings while discounting the costs of moving people out of prisons, youth centers or institutions.  

"Just saying that we're closing facilities is not enough," Bost said. "You actually have to implement a plan and show those savings." 

New spending 

Quinn’s proposal is not all cuts in spending. He has a handful of priorities where he would like to spend new money.  

"While nearly 150,000 Illinois students received state (Monetary Awards Program, or MAP) scholarships last year to attend college, just as many qualified applicants were denied because of lack of funding," Quinn said as he pushed for a $50 million increase for the MAP scholarship fund.  

The governor also wants lawmakers to approve clean water and new housing projects, and to make sure that elementary and high schools statewide receive the same level of funding as the current budget.

But Quinn is not saying how he intends to pay for any of the items on his wish list.  

State Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, said that for that reason, the governor probably won't get much of what he wants.

"We're going to give schools another $20 million, we're going to give the MAP program another $50 million. How can you give stuff away when you're shutting other things down?" Forby asked after Quinn's speech. "The governor's math just doesn't add up. He needs to get someone who knows how to add and subtract and make sure he knows how to balance the budget."

— Benjamin Yount

Quinn’s Budget Cuts Leave Little to be Desired, Illinois Lawmakers Say

SPRINGFIELD — Lawmakers agree the state needs to cut spending, but few are quick to rally behind Gov. Pat Quinn's spending plan that would close state facilities in many of their districts and cut Medicaid spending on many of their constituents.

Quinn’s $33.9 budget relies on cutting Medicaid spending and saving $110 million annually by closing or consolidating 63 state facilities to generate a surplus of more than $160 million. 

Lawmakers said Quinn's proposed pillars are sturdy, but how he wants to construct them is cause for concern.  During his budget address to the General Assembly on Wednesday, Quinn called for:

  • Increasing education funding;
  • Closing or consolidating 63 state facilities;
  • Trimming Medicaid spending by $2.7 billion;
  • Restructuring the state’s pension systems.

Quinn insisted that tackling Medicaid and state pensions must be done before the General Assembly leaves the state Capitol this year.

“This is not something you can blithely delay for another year,” he said. 

Quinn laid out a buffet of options for controlling Medicaid spending, including:

  • Reducing the amount of money the state pays providers for treating patients;
  • Changing the services Medicaid covers;
  • Revising eligibility requirements for Medicaid recipients.

Regarding the state's ballooning pension costs, Quinn said only that something needs to be done and did not specify further.

“Everything is on the table,” he said. 

State Rep. Jil Tracy, R-Quincy, said she liked what she heard from Quinn, but it’s what she didn’t hear that concerned her.  

“The devil is going to be in the details, and we didn’t hear a lot of details,” Tracy said. 

Medicaid cuts

Not everyone is thrilled about Medicaid cuts. Many health-care providers say less money to perform the same services would be terminal to facilities. 

“Medicaid needs reform — no question — but blanket cuts are not a viable solution,” said Adam Mesirow, spokesman for the Association of Safety-Net Hospitals, which represents hospitals that serve a large Medicaid population. 

Mary Jane Worth, president of the Illinois Hospital Association, which lobbies on behalf of hospitals in the state, said less Medicaid spending could have a domino effect. 

“If cuts are made to Medicaid, many hospitals will be forced to reduce or eliminate key services or lay off staff, and some hospitals may close,” Worth said. “When health-care services are eliminated due to Medicaid cuts, those services are gone for everyone, not just Medicaid patients.” 

Quinn said without his proposed cuts, Medicaid in Illinois could collapse, harming the people who truly need it.

State facility hit list

For some downstate lawmakers, the state facility hit list, not pension reforms or Medicaid cuts, are of great concern. 

Democratic state. Sen. John Sullivan’s hometown of Rushville is one of 24 communities where Quinn wants to close the local Illinois Department of Human Services office. Quinn proposed consolidating that office with one in a neighboring community. The majority of the facility closures and consolidations — 53 out of 63 — are downstate. 

“To talk about increasing funding for education at the same time when you’re talking about closing numerous facilities and cutting services to some pretty vulnerable populations, that did not seem like a good balance,” Sullivan said. 

Among the 63 facilities that would close permanently, putting more than 1,400 state workers on the unemployment rolls, state Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, is most concerned about closing the Tamms Correctional Center in Tamms. 

“I don’t know where this governor is coming from. You can’t close facilities like Tamms. What are you going to do with these people? These are the worst of the worst,” Forby said. 

Quinn said his proposals may be hard to swallow for everyone, but they are necessary because of the Illinois’ precarious financial state. 

“I’m here today to tell you the truth. This budget contains truths that may not be what you want to hear. But these are truths that you do need to know,” Quinn said. 

More than a few lawmakers said at least Quinn delivered on his promise to deliver the truth, positive or otherwise. 

“I was appreciative of the reality. It’s painful and it’s awful, but it’s out there,” state Rep. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston, said. 

Rocky past

Quinn and the Legislature have had a cantankerous relationship. The General Assembly passed Medicaid reforms last year that tightened residency and income verifications, but many lawmakers say Quinn is dragging his feet on implementing the changes. 

And last year the General Assembly all but ignored Quinn’s budget proposal, taking up the task of crafting a budget themselves. 

This baggage makes many lawmakers skeptical of Quinn and their abilities to compromise or agree on how to achieve many of his proposals. 

“He talked a lot about Medicaid but didn’t give us a whole lot of specifics about how to we’re going to get from point A to point B, except he’s going to keep us around all summer if we don’t do what he says,” state Rep. Rich Morthland, R-Cordova, said. 

Quinn’s proposals, while bare, are the start of a much-needed conversation, said Doug Whitley, president of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, a group that lobbies on behalf of businesses in the state. 

“The kinds of actions that our General Assembly and governor should be taking relative to pension benefits and health-care benefits are the exact same actions that were taken in the private sector about 20 years ago,” Whitley said. “Our state needs to wake up and recognize the reality is of what they can afford.”

— Andrew Thomason

Glass is half full February 26, 2012 at 04:20 PM
I agree with you that many of our elected officials work part-time and receive long term pensions. Do you think they will cut that perk? Not without real pressure from the constituents. Write and call your representatives and ask them to present a bill to cut pensions as our income has been cut. Interesting article about this: http://www.myfoxchicago.com/dpp/news/metro/pensions-elected-officials-100k-part-time-work-more-government-workers-2011041. The state is struggling and giving out pension perks for our elected officials, just as Yorkville is struggling but still giving out health care perks to elected officials. Put some pressure on!
Jello March 01, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Government ‘Illinois’: French for ‘Just like Greece’ http://www.theblaze.com/blog/2012/01/20/illinois-french-for-just-like-greece/
Jello March 01, 2012 at 02:34 PM
Bernanke warns lawmakers country headed for 'massive fiscal cliff' http://thehill.com/blogs/on-the-money/801-economy/213351-fed-boss-warns-of-massive-fiscal-cliff
Jello March 01, 2012 at 02:39 PM
Jello March 01, 2012 at 02:43 PM
John Taylor's Open Letter To Greece: "Get Out Greece! Get Out Right Now!" "Get out Greece! Get out right now! You should have moved two years ago; you missed that chance, but now it is much better than later......The standard of living will drop for everyone..." (Hmmm-maybe that should say GET OUT OF ILLINOIS! GET OUT RIGHT NOW! ?)


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