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Quinn's "Lean" Budget Heavy on Borrowing, Spending

By Chuck Sudo in News on Feb 17, 2011 3:12PM

We're still trying to wrap our heads around how the $52.7 billion budget Gov. Quinn proposed to the Illinois General Assembly yesterday can be called "lean" when one of the centerpieces of the budget is a record $8.75 billion borrowing plan that GOP leaders have adamantly opposed. Maybe that's why Quinn tried to focus on the spending cuts in his address.

“While we have taken strong action to stabilize our budget, we are still in a tough fiscal situation. As a result, the spending reductions I am presenting today are tough, as well,” the governor said during a sober, 27-minute budget address to the General Assembly.

“The difficult choices we make today will ensure that we are able to provide essential services to families and businesses across the state,” he said.

Among the cuts in Quinn's budget are reductions in prescription drug programs for the elderly, health care programs for the poor and reductions in school bus service for downstate school children. Those spending cuts, by the way, are not popular with many across the state right now. Quinn said the cuts are intended to bring "financial stability" to the state at a time when it's desperately needed.

The budget was met with criticism and claims of bad math from both Springfield leaders on both sides. In addition to the borrowing plan which would require a supermajority of both Democrats and Republican leaders Quinn doesn't have right now, House Speaker Michael Madigan said Quinn's proposed budget exceeds spending by $720 million. Senate President John Cullerton released a statement saying Quinn's budget was out of whack by $1.4 billion. Illinois Hospital Association President Maryjane Wurth released a statement yesterday saying the cuts to health care would adversely affect the ability for low income families to receive health care throughout the state.

“Making such deep cuts will pose serious challenges to many financially fragile hospitals, which are already struggling to survive. With hospitals being squeezed between higher costs - for labor, new technology and medical liability - and inadequate revenues during the current economic downturn, their ability to continue to perform the critical role of serving their patients and their communities will be seriously jeopardized by Medicaid rate reductions... We urge the General Assembly to reject these proposed Medicaid cuts and work with IHA and the hospital community to develop fair and reasonable approaches to save money in the Medicaid program and ensure that Illinois continues to have a strong health care system and a vibrant economy.”