Two years ago, the Committee cautioned that state spending far outpaced state revenue gains, and that the state’s liabilities also exceeded assets by more than $100 billion. In response, the organization recommended Illinois cut spending and implement reforms of state pension and health care programs, and urged officials not to raise taxes – unless the revenues were to be directed to cover existing costs, and not new programs.
STATE BUDGET SHOULD CUT SPENDING, NOT INCREASE TAXES
With less than two weeks before Gov. Pat Quinn unveils his first budget, I am calling on state leaders to concentrate more on spending restraint and cuts, not tax increases.
The state’s budget seems to be getting more scrutiny early on than in years past; however, the tax increase drumbeat seems to be getting louder. It is imperative that we focus much more on reining in spending instead of asking taxpayers for even more money.
I was encouraged when legislative leaders created a bipartisan Committee on Deficit Reduction last month to examine the budget and determine what options there are to address a crushing deficit estimated to top $11 billion next year.
However, the first meeting on March 4, which focused on education spending, quickly revealed a clear difference in approaches to the state’s deficit. The Committee’s Democrat members seemed more focused on tax increases and building a case for more government spending. The Republican members were more interested in spending reforms and efficiencies.”
HOW WE GOT HERE IN THE FIRST PLACE
This “tax-and-spend” style of governing is one of the main reasons the state’s finances are in such a mess.
We had an Administration whose budgets relied on record high state debt; a record high backlog of unpaid bills; financial gimmickry such as leasing the state lottery, pension bond sales and raids from the Road Fund; and continued attacks on business. And look at the result! Generations of taxpayers are going to be paying for the former Governor’s fiscal mismanagement. It must also be noted that he did not pass these budgets all by himself. Democrat legislative leaders need to own up to their role in the current situation and make the needed changes now.
Most of the policies that led to the current budget crisis were predominantly supported by Democrat lawmakers and predominantly opposed by Republican lawmakers.
So many times, Republicans were portrayed as being obstructionists, but look at what we were asked to support! None of the state budgets in that time period reduced spending, even in the face of dire economic warnings. They implemented taxes on businesses and drove jobs out of Illinois. They shorted the state’s pension systems and started new programs when we could not pay the bills for the programs we already had.
It is interesting that the legislative leaders did not enlist our bipartisan help in creating this budget problem, but are asking for our bipartisan help in trying to solve the huge budget problem we now have.
A BETTER SOLUTION
Strong job growth – not huge tax increases – is the only way to address budget woes.
In tough economic times, when employment is down and more people need state services, we should focus on job growth, not higher fees and taxes. Higher costs for businesses drive jobs out of Illinois. Trying to “tax-and-spend” our way out of a recession does not work.
I am sponsoring legislation – Senate Bill 61 – that will return a number of state fees to the levels they were prior to June 2003. I have filed the bill several years in a row, but the former Senate President never allowed it to advance.
Senate Bill 61 has currently been assigned to a Senate subcommittee by Democrat leaders. Often, legislation that is sent to a subcommittee is allowed to languish and is never considered by lawmakers.
SENATE DEMOCRATS BLOCK SPECIAL ELECTION BILL
Illinois voters will not be allowed to choose who they want to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama, after a Senate subcommittee this week blocked legislation calling for special elections in April and May.
On March 6, a Senate subcommittee voted along party lines against Senate Bill 285, which would have allowed for a one-time special election to coincide with the consolidated April 7 election and a special general election in May. It also would have ensured all future U.S. Senate seat vacancies in Illinois would be filled by special election, instead of by gubernatorial appointment.
Senate Republicans have pushed for a special election, noting that the U.S. Constitution and Illinois election law both affirm that the appointment of Roland Burris is temporary. Recently, Attorney General Lisa Madigan issued an opinion affirming that a special election would be constitutional.