Quinn promises 'no frills' budget

June 1, 2009 2:53:00 PM PDT
On Monday, Ill. Governor Pat Quinn was meeting with leaders in both the state House and Senate to discuss what steps must be taken to balance the budget.The General Assembly adjourned late Sunday night without a budget. The rejected budget included an increase in the state income tax.

The meeting between lawmakers and the governor was scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. The Republican leaders and the governor were there. The Democrats didn't show up. House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton didn't show up. They set the meeting back to 11 a.m.

The governor says he believes the House members who voted down his tax increase proposal Sunday were doing so only to make a statement and that if given another chance in a special session, they would see things the governor's way and vote yes. But Quinn also has a trump card. He vows not to sign a $26 billion capital bill supported by the union and the Republicans if he does not have an operating budget that includes a tax increase.

"That's not what he promised when we were negotiating the capital bill. He indicated they would be separate. The other thing he's saying now is that he can't sell the bonds without a balanced budget. We've actually invested that and have some information to the contrary," said State Sen. Christine Radogno, (R) Lemont.

"We need to put people to work. And when you put people to work, that means they're earning money, they're paying taxes, they're buying things. We need to get this economy going because that will generate a lot of revenue for the states," said State Rep. Tom Cross, (R) Oswego.

"We have a lot of work to do. When things don't go your way, work harder. That's what I plan to do this week, get the legislative leaders in this week. We got to get a balance budget," Quinn said.

The governor said he will never accept a budget that includes cuts in programs for children, the elderly and the disabled, and he says he will hold that capital bill or not sign it until what he says are the most vulnerable citizens of Illinois are protected. He will depend on the unions who want that capital bill to put pressure on Democratic house members, and he'll ask the Republican leaders to push their membership toward the tax increase so that that capital bill can be signed and that jobs programs can be underway in the state of Illinois.

Lawmakers adjourned early Monday without passing a complete state budget, a step that could trigger massive cuts in government services.

During an interview on WLS Radio's "Don Wade and Roma Morning Show," Quinn promised what he calls a "decent" budget that takes care of those most in need.

Earlier on WLS, House Minority Leader Tom Cross said the state needs to tighten its belt. And Cross says Republicans aren't going to participate in any budget discussions that don't include significant structural reform.

Quinn refused Sunday to accept that the Illinois House of Representatives had soundly defeated his income tax increase proposal by a vote of 74 to 42, with two members voting present. More than two dozen Democrats joined Republicans to defeat the bill.

"The income tax is a tax better than most to raise. The reality is, if you don't have an income, you don't have to pay it," Cross said.

"Does the economy factor into this? You bet it does. It exacerbates the problem. But the economy is not the reason we are in the trouble we are in today," House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie said.

Later, the House approved the so-called "doomsday" budget: to cut state grants - most for social programs - by 50 percent, across the board.

"I don't want to have a situation where some people who don't happen to have a lot of political power and don't have friends in high places are pushed to the side of the road and abandoned," Quinn said.

The House did not vote on a tax increase bill passed in the Senate Saturday night that would raise the rate from the current 3 to 5 percent, with property tax relief and money for education. "We have a bill that has passed the Illinois Senate and should be called for a vote," State Senator Rev. James Meeks said.

But the governor says his bill--calling for an increase from 3 to 4.5 percent--has the best chance of passing. And he theorized it went down Sunday night because lawmakers were trying to make a point.

"I do think there may have been a feeling on the part of some that they wanted to have one vote against taxes. Ok, they had their vote. They voted no. Now we have to have another vote to get a budget," Quinn said.

The governor never used the words "special session" when talking about another vote. But a new vote on a tax increase bill will require a 3/5 majority to succeed - 71 votes in the House and 36 votes in the Senate.

The House also approved the ethics reform bill it was considering. It will now be sent to the governor. Critics say that that bill does not go far enough, that there are too many loopholes left in it, but it is a done deal in Springfield.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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