Lawmakers talk taxes, cuts

June 9, 2009 (CHICAGO) A plan passed last week doesn't come close to covering the cost of running the government. It could force billions of dollars in cuts.

The governor is trying to talk lawmakers into approving an income tax increase.

If there are budget cuts, social service agencies would take the brunt of it, including a Chicago agency that helps the developmentally disabled.

The meeting went on for just over three hours at the Thompson Center and at the end of it we could see the framework for a possible deal that could lead to an income tax increase in Illinois.

The Democrats, who control the governor's office and both chambers of the legislature, appear willing to negotiate spending reforms demanded by the Republicans.

The Republicans would support an increase in the state income tax, if all went according to Gov. Pat Quinn's plan. He says an increase is absolutely necessary to stop deep cuts in social services programs.

"I am encouraged that there does seem to be a willingness to consider some real changes to the way we do business in Illinois, in some areas that we've expressed, including pension reforms, medicaid reforms," said State Sen. Christine Radogno, (R) Senate minority leader.

"We have to, I think, send out notices this week to very, very important groups in our state to deal with our human services and indicate that there's danger ahead," said Gov. Pat Quinn, (D) Illinois.

At the Sunshine Activities Center on the northwest side, there is deep concern expressed by operators and family members of 35 developmentally disabled adults.

Eight percent of the center's money is provided by the state. The director says a 50 percent cut would close the center and leave the families with nowhere to send their loved ones.

"This is devastating. This is a doomsday budget. A community-based agency, such as sunshine, will be totally cut. We'll have to close our doors," said Linda Williamson, Sunshine Center, associate director.

"There are no other alternatives in the community. It's just tearful," said Mary Ogrodowski-Sparks, parent of participant.

"We like to exercise and we play games," said Cynthia Mayberry, Sunshine Center participant.

"It's tough for a whole host of agencies, groups that take care of victims of domestic violence, the list goes on and on. The Democrats have enough to get through six months with the budget," said State Rep. Tom Cross, (R) House minority leader.

House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton will have to convince a core constituent of theirs, the unions, to accept pension reform.

The governor hopes to get reform legislation passed in Springfield before July 1, when the state's fiscal year comes to an end.

Charles has more on the political beat in his Precinct 7 Blog.

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