Mt. Vernon Register-News

State News

June 15, 2009

Quinn: Proposed budget means cutting $9.2 billion


Lawmakers sarcastically described it as a “lights on” budget — meaning it would provide enough money for agencies to keep the lights on but nothing more. They said Quinn would have to cut spending by roughly $7 billion.

But Quinn’s office said lawmakers left a hole of $9.2 billion. That amounts to nearly one-third of all the money that’s directly under state government’s control and not subject to federal restrictions. The current budget totals $67 billion, according to a report from the General Assembly, but most of that is federal money the state doesn’t really control or spending authority for long-term construction projects.

Legislators voted to protect education money, further limiting how the deficit could be closed.

Stermer said the “half-baked partial budget” would require that most cuts come from money the state pays to local organizations.

Eliminating the Illinois CaresRx drug program, for instance, would affect 196,000 senior citizens and save the state $140 million, he said. Cutting 142,000 poor families out of subsidized child-care would save $271 million but also cost the state up to $174 million in federal aid.

The Department of Children and Family Services would lose $450 million — nearly half its budget, Stermer said. The caseload for each person overseeing children in foster care, a job largely done by private groups, would jump from 15 to 50.

He rejected some lawmakers’ accusations that Quinn is resorting to scare tactics and painting an unrealistically grim picture of what will happen without a better budget.

“I can assure you that this is not about scare tactics. It is about a careful analysis of the dramatic shortfall in revenues that can be resolved if we all come to the table,” Stermer said.

While promising that government will streamline its operations and cut unnecessary spending, Stermer warned that it’s impossible to eliminate the deficit simply by hacking away at state government.

“Even a total elimination of all state workers wouldn’t get to half of what our deficit is,” he said.

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