On Wednesday, Governor Pat Quinn delivered his 2012 proposed state budget to the Illinois General Assembly as required by the state constitution. The fundamentals of the budget are:
- A total budget of $52.7 Billion, approximately 4.1% higher than the current fiscal year 2011 expenditure.
- His contention that $ 1 Billion is being cut, although generally not specific, other than elimination of certain Medicaid payments, elimination of k-12 Transportation funds, further reduction of Soil and Water District funds, and a suggestion of “saving” of approximately $100 million by consolidating school districts by forcing consolidation (although he starts the discussion only by forming a commission to look at doing this). His cuts also included elimination of all Regional School Superintendents funding throughout the state.
- A proposal to borrow, through bonding, about $ 8.7 Billion to pay offer existing state debt to vendors. The existing debt to vendors totals $ 7 Billion.
- The Governor issued a specific challenge to lawmakers to come up with alternatives if they did not like the borrowing, especially since it will mean telling vendors in their legislative districts their payments will continue to be delayed.
- Within the budget, selected programs receive additional funding. Included are proposals to increase the number of Prison guards and state police, although training funds for new hires is eliminated (curiously).
- The Illinois Department of Agriculture funding is flat, or without growth, from the 2011 budget.
Many analyses following his budget message, especially from Republican lawmakers in both chambers, produced reluctance to support more borrowing without addressing the need to scale back the cost of government. Even Democratic leadership in each chamber hardly embraced the proposal, suggesting they are still apart in terms of the priorities involved, and especially with the freshness of the vote to raise income taxes still on every one’s collective mind.
Republican lawmakers especially seem united to block the borrowing, and especially now that they have won back enough seats to keep the vote lower than the three-fifths majority needed to pass any bonding proposal.
Just like the ice cream you can get, it appears the Governor’s proposal has a “rocky road” to travel before it can be swallowed in the legislature.
The legislature, with a tough budget to work out, and the responsibility to redistrict legislative districts this year to re-balance their population, have a long road to travel before the proposed adjournment date of May 31.