Gov. Pat Quinn gave his budget address Wednesday afternoon. (Photo By B Corbin/WJBC)
By The Associated Press
SPRINGFIELD - Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said he's submitting the "most difficult'' budget he's ever had to since he took office.
The Chicago Democrat gave his budget address Wednesday.
He said lawmakers' inaction on the pension crisis has squeezed out spending on other services. Illinois' pension problem tops nearly $100 billion.
He issued a direct challenge to lawmakers to approve pension legislation immediately.
Quinn told lawmakers, "It's time for you to legislate."
Quinn said the pension payment is squeezing many departments, especially education. His budget calls for $400 million in cuts for schools.
In order to make up for those cuts, Quinn said any state revenue from gambling should go toward education. Quinn has vetoed two gambling expansions that lawmakers have sent him. Both bills proposed nearly half a dozen new casinos in the state, including one in Chicago.
Quinn is also proposing to save the state more money by eliminating 75 state boards and commissions. He said he's going to issue an executive order later this week to eliminate bodies that he said are redundant.
Quinn said his budget includes money for beefing up public safety.
Quinn said there is more money for mental health services and new cadet classes for the State Police. Quinn said the budget is also focused on anti-violence strategies.
He said those are a few bright spots in an otherwise bleak outlook for the state.
State Rep. Dan Brady agrees that pensions are the top priority for lawmakers and hopes Quinn's call to resolve the issue finally gets the job done.
"A variety of plans have been floated and I hope that the best is taken from some of those plans and is put together into something that can be passed in the General Assembly and I hope it's something that includes all five pension systems," he said.
Quinn's budget proposed to implement $400 million in education cuts, but Brady said the math doesn't add up.
"The governor talks on one hand about making cuts to education, being short on specifics. Then he turns and talks about getting more funding for the Monetary Assistance Program grants without specifics," he said.
Meanwhile, state Sen. Jason Barickman said Quinn should have taken advantage of the spotlight Wednesday and put his support behind a pension plan.
"He should then engage himself in the House and the Senate in the legislative process and shepherd a bill through. Instead, he comes out and he barks loud," he said.
Barickman said overall Quinn's budget address was just more of the same.
"This is his fifth budget address and he certainly has demonstrated a pattern of failing to control spending and manage the limited dollars that we have in an effective and efficient way," he said.
State Sen. Bill Brady echoed Barickman's thoughts.
“Meaningful, substantial pension reform should be a top priority. While the Governor continues to advocate for pension reform, he fails to lead on the issue,” he said in a release.