"Well, you know, I thought we moved the ball forward last night by getting a budget, a stable budget. By no means do I feel that this is the final word on the budget for fiscal 2010," said Gov. Pat Quinn, (D) Illinois.
There were plenty of questions for Quinn during his first, post-budget news conference with media. On Wednesday night, state lawmakers passed and the governor signed a $26 billion spending plan under which the heavily indebted state would borrow $3.5 billion to help erase its $9 billion deficit. The strategy is likened to using one credit card to pay another by some critics. The governor was asked to comment on the Moody's warning that the creditworthiness of Illinois bond issues might be downgraded.
"Well, it can happen. These are difficult times. Every state is going through this. Our economy nationwide, you know, suffered some difficulties since Labor Day," said Gov. Quinn.
The governor could layoff 2,600 state employees -- more-- and require the remaining workers to take 12 furlough days. The budget would also mean 8-percent across-the-board cuts in state departments and 14- percent reductions in grants to private agencies that provide most of Illinois' social services.
The governor--who in his budget address in March wanted to speed up the rate of payments to state vendors--signed a budget that will slow down the process. He said the only way to speed it up is for the legislature to pass an income tax increase later this year or early next year.
"I think you know and everybody knows that I feel that we should raise more revenue via an income tax based on ability to pay. And I'm going to be continuing to work on that issue," said Gov. Quinn.
An early test of the Illinois credit rating will come soon enough when the state tries to sell bonds to finance the $29 billion public works bill signed by Quinn earlier this week. The state might be charged higher interest rates and/or it might have difficulty finding buyers.
The governor warned several weeks ago that a budget without a new revenue might cause credit problems for Illinois.