Quinn critics say gov in no hurry to fix budget mess

February 24, 2011 3:28:10 PM PST
The budget battle in Wisconsin has been in the spotlight, but Illinois has its own growing budget problem.

Critics say Governor Pat Quinn is not doing enough to fix our own financial mess, and he's not in a hurry to do it. Some say there are lessons Quinn can learn from the situation up north.

Not even Republicans in Illinois are advocating such extreme measures as taking away collective bargaining rights, but many say concessions from public employee unions are a must to fix the budget.

While Governor Quinn talked Thursday about pension reform he accomplished last year, he did not say when he will sit down with the unions this year.

As Illinois social service agencies protest spending cuts, the fact is the state of Illinois remains billions of dollars in the red, a financial situation that is one of the worst in the country.

"I didn't create the budget deficit that I inherited when I became governor a couple of years ago. That was created over three decades of inaction or lack of attention," Quinn said.

He didn't create it, but Quinn was elected to fix the budget, and many Republicans say Quinn is dragging his feet.

"It's not in Governor Quinn's nature -- I've watched him -- to cut the budget," said State Sen. Kirk Dillard, (R) Hinsdale. " It's not in his DNA, but you need to have a real come-to-reality talk with public employees or their pensions won't be there."

Dillard does not believe Quinn should take a page from Wisconsin Governor Scott Walkers's playbook and try to bust the unions, but Dillard does believe Quinn must act soon.

Speaking before the City Club Thursday, Quinn talked about sacrifices, but he did not say when he plans to ask the public employee unions for those sacrifices.

"I think the process is, we sit down and work and negotiate with all parties concerned," said Quinn.

Dillard says Quinn lost his leverage with the unions when he raised the state income tax first.

"It's going to be tougher to get these concessions from these unions, which we need now that he's given away the store," Dillard said.

Quinn backed off on whether he still plans to impose sudden budget cuts in the Department of Human Services on March 15.

"These are very difficult things to do, because many people feel strongly about the programs, but balancing it out, my ultimate responsibility is to find the right balance," said Quinn.

Several substance abuse programs have been told March 15 is the day state funds go away.

Quinn says the budget cut process is all about day-to-day dialogue and balance.

Meanwhile, the deficit continues to grow, and while Quinn talks about sitting down with the unions, there is no date set yet.