Web site seeks public input on Ill. budget crisis

February 25, 2010 2:15:08 PM PST
Governor Pat Quinn says he wants to cut about $2 billion from next year's budget. He may be hoping a new Web site asking for public opinion on the budget crisis will give him ideas on how to erase the remaining $11 billion deficit.

It may be new age good government or gimmickry. Gov. Quinn's budget office is using the Internet to get public input on what to do about the state's worsening financial crisis.

In nearly 40 pages of documents, the Web site indicated the governor plans to cut 2 billion additional dollars from next year's spending plan as the first part of his effort to reduce the state's nearly $13 billion deficit.

In a video prepared for the site, budget director David Vaught said other deficit reduction components will include more borrowing, increased federal aid and the possibility of an income tax increase.

Read the budget at budget.illinois.gov

According to a published report in Springfield Wednesday, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton have advised the governor not to include a politically unpopular tax increase in his March 10th budget message.

In Chicago Wednesday, Mayor Richard Daley agreed with the legislative leaders.

"You have to be able to cut first, to consolidate services. If you don't, you cannot tell me the only answer is to raise taxes," said Daley.

The state's deficit includes nearly $6 billion in unpaid bills. The Metropolitan Asian Family Services Center received a state check Tuesday for work done last September. The agency is still owed $5 million.

"I was told that the next payment will be very late, not even monthly. That's what I was told," said Harivadan Patel, Metropolitan Asian Family Services.

The biggest worry for next year is public education. Nearly $1 billion in this year's budget was provided by the federal stimulus program. It disappears in fiscal 2011.

"We had $922 million last year in the federal stabilization funds for K through 12 education. It's gone. Not coming back. That's a huge number," said David Vaught, Illinois Office of Management and Budget.

The Web site reports year to date spending this fiscal year but does not include the monthly revenue shortfalls at the root of the bills backlog nor does it explain why the state continues to contract for services that it doesn't have the money to pay for.

ABC7 was told that Quinn staff members are reading the public comments on the Web site. Somehow, the governor will consider the input in his budget message March 10th.