State

Is 'doomsday' budget political stunt?

Gov. Pat Quinn responds to a question Monday on the state budget during a news conference in Chicago. Quinn is trying to build support for a tax increase by painting a stark portrait of what would happen to state services without additional money.
Gov. Pat Quinn responds to a question Monday on the state budget during a news conference in Chicago. Quinn is trying to build support for a tax increase by painting a stark portrait of what would happen to state services without additional money.

Local lawmakers say the governor’s recently released “Doomsday” budget is only a political stunt.

Gov. Pat Quinn released the proposal Monday, claiming it’s what Illinois would face if it had to close an $11.6 billion budget without raising taxes.

The Chicago Democrat is under mounting pressure to get skeptical lawmakers on his side because time is running out to pass a state budget before the General Assembly adjourns May 31 for the summer.

Quinn has proposed raising the state income tax rate to 4.5 percent, up from 3 percent.

Without that money, 14,300 teachers and half of state police troopers could be laid off, the governor says. Additionally, 650,000 people would lose health care and 400,000 college students could lose state grants and scholarships.

However, local lawmakers said most of the cuts are not only unrealistic, they are unreasonable.

“It’s a political ploy ... to get an unnatural response from legislators,” said state Sen. Pam Althoff, R-McHenry. “At this particular point, I don’t think that it’s productive.”

State Rep. Mike Tryon, R-Crystal Lake, said it shouldn’t be an all-or-nothing approach and that he’d rather see things such as Medicaid reform on the table to help the state cope with budget shortfalls.

“I think there’s a political element to the doomsday budget,” he said. “It’s just cuts and I really think what’s missing is how you enhance the financial position of the

state by looking at how we become more efficient.”

State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Ma­rengo, agreed.

“I wish the governor would spend as much energy on finding efficiencies in state government, as putting together this document,” he said.

Quinn’s proposal includes cuts to programs partly funded with federal grants. If the state doesn’t pay its share of the funding, then the federal government won’t provide the grant money.

Franks said the return on investment on those types of funds was too good to pass up.

“We have to at least garner those federal funds,” he said.

The lawmakers did agree that some cuts will be necessary, they just won’t be as sweeping, and as drastic as the ones in this proposal.

“It’s just the governor’s way of trying to say that everyone is going to have to take a hit and where do you want those cuts to be?” Althoff said. “But I think there is a much more responsible and more reasonable approach that can be done.”

Franks added that Quinn’s proposal was by no means the end of budget negotiations.

“The governor has sent out his political document,” he said. “It’s now been received and he’ll now hear back from us.”


• The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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