Ill. Dems call for more cuts in budget

May 24, 2010 (CHICAGO)

As lawmakers return to Springfield, the Republicans will have some new allies in their effort to reduce the size of state government. Some area Democrats -- senators and representatives -- have announced their support for over a billion dollars in additional spending cuts and savings.

"We're not looking at this from a political standpoint. We're looking at this, what's the best policy, what's the best thing to do," said State Sen. Dan Kotowski, (D) Park Ridge.

The ten lawmakers, all Democrats, say they are frustrated by the political games in Springfield. They vowed to put an additional $1.3 billion in cuts on the table including $300 million they say can be cut from K-12 public education.

"I talked to the budgeteers. They're saying that for every dollar spent on education, 80 percent goes to administration, only 20 percent to the kids. There's something backward in the state of Illinois," said State Rep. Linda Chapa La Via, (D) Aurora.

The group's plan include the following budget cuts and savings:

  • K-12 education $300 million
  • Higher education $100 million
  • State agencies (-5%) $300 million
  • Re-bid contracts $300 million
  • Medicaid $200 million
  • Retiree health ins $100 million
  • In addition to the K-12 cuts, the group will recommend slashing another $100 million from higher education and reducing all state agencies by 5 percent to save $300 million. The lawmakers also want the state to rebid existing contracts to generate another $300 million. Medicaid would take a $200 million hit and making state retirees pay for their health insurance would save another $100 million.

    "Ninety two percent of our state retirees pay nothing toward their healthcare premiums and we are the only state that is so generous," said State Rep. Karen May, (D) Highwood.

    "We wanted to say to the voters of the state of Illinois, these are difficult but necessary cuts to bring our budget back into some kind of order," said State Rep. Elaine Nekritz, (D) Des Plaines.

    In recent years, the General Assembly sent underfunded appropriations bills to the governor and let him decide on where to make cuts at his political cost. Governor Pat Quinn said he had met with the lawmakers and was thrilled that the few of them had the courage to take a stand.

    "Anybody with an idea in that area is fine with me, I told 'em that. We have to make sure we can get a majority in both houses to support those economies," said Gov. Quinn.

    If House Speaker Michael Madigan calls the spending reduction bills for votes this week, their new Democratic proponents hope to get the support of Republicans, who have been longtime advocates for many of the same spending cuts.

    "We gotta get 60 votes and we intend to talk to our colleagues across the aisle about these reforms and what we have here," said State Rep. Karen Yarbrough, (D) Broadview.

    Some of the lawmakers at Monday's news conference did not rule out supporting some kind of tax increase in the future. But they said the only time to determine how large a tax increase should be is after making as many cuts as possible. They also want to revamp the way the state budget is focused on outcomes desired by state residents. The regular session ends on May 31.

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