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Republican Senators Tout Budget Proposal

Illinois politicians say plan will save the state up to $6.7 billion annually; plan has come under fire by Gov. Pat Quinn and some economists.

“Illinois is sick and it’s time we take our medicine.”

That is how state Sen. Carole Pankau (R-23rd) described Illinois’ financial situation during a media event touting Republican budget proposals targeting $6.7 billion in budget cuts.

Pankau, along with fellow Republican State Senators Kirk Dillard (R-24th), Ron Sandack (R-21st), John Millner (R-28th), Chris Lauzen (R-25th) and Tom Johnson (R-48th) said their planned cuts will put Illinois’ fiscal house back in order. Dillard said if the state continues to follow the fiscal course set by Gov. Pat Quinn, the state will run an annual deficit of billions of dollars. He said if only $5 billion of savings is realized, then the state can avoid a deficit of $22 billion in five years and that Democrats in Springfield do not dispute the dire financial projection.

The senators criticized the increases on personal and corporate income taxes—something the Republicans want to see rolled back.

“It’s hard to believe that with a 67 percent income tax increase we still need to sit here talking about cutting the budget by $5 billion,” Dillard said. He added the income tax hike hurts DuPage citizens more, because fewer state dollars are spent on services in the area.

The Republicans spent the morning in Glen Ellyn outlining their budget plan. The proposed cuts include increasing healthcare premiums for state employees to save $300 million annually, saving $9 million by reducing the number of government provided cars and eliminating $2.3 million by reducing the number of state provided cell phones. The plan also includes proposals to combine the office of state treasurer and comptroller for an annual savings of $12 million and eliminate funding for the office of lieutenant governor.

Dillard said the biggest savings will come through reforming public pension plans and Medicaid.

“There can’t be any sacred cows. That’s what got us to this point in the first place,” said Sandack, who was appointed to the Senate earlier this year.

The Republicans say their pension reforms will save the state $1.35 billion annually in unfunded liability. Dillard said under the Republican measure, current employees could contribute more to stay in their current “Cadillac pension plan,” or move into a defined contribution system similar to a 401(k), or utilize the new pension plan implemented for new hires. 

The plan also targets $1.3 billion in cuts to Medicaid, including reducing eligibility to certain programs like All-Kids. Millner said under the current All-Kids requirements, children from other states participate in the program. Other ways of achieving Medicaid reform include increasing co-pays, rolling back eligibility and eliminating optional services not required by the federal government. The plan also calls for implementing a Medicaid audit to eliminate fraud. Dillard said studies show that up to 10 percent of Medicaid payments are fraudulent. He said recapturing that 10 percent would amount to $1 billion. However, he said a more realistic outlook is recapturing 2.5 percent, which would amount to $250 million in savings.

The proposal also calls for cutting $725 million from education spending—about one-tenth of current education spending levels.

“There’s going to be pain… but we’re willing to make the tough decisions,” Pankau said.

But any pain from the Republican proposals would come only if the Democratic majority allows them to come to the floor. The Republican senators readily admitted they face a steep battle in the legislature, where their party is in the minority. However, they said some of their proposals are piquing the interests of colleagues across the political aisle.

If those proposals are heard, Sandack said special interest groups will line up to fight many of the suggested cuts.

The senators at the Glen Ellyn meeting admitted there is some division among the caucus members over portions of the plan. Sandack, who is also mayor of Downers Grove, said he did not support the call for reducing local government’s share of income, sales and gasoline taxes, which the plan estimates would save the state $300 million annually.

The Republican plan has already come under fire from Quinn and some economists, including Ralph Martire, who during a meeting with the Democratic Women of DuPage County.

Chad D. Walz March 25, 2011 at 06:40 PM
Don't be fooled by appearances. Big business funds both parties. Bill Gates, Donald Trump, George Soros...I could go on all day with lists of people who give to both sides. They all give millions to both parties depending on what state the race is in and how it affects their companies. If you want to address the real issue it should be that the donation amounts should be limited to $2,500 per donation per person...PERIOD. No endless donations to any candidate you want by hiding donations via business‘s and other funky stuff. Then the political climate would change for the better.
jim campbell March 25, 2011 at 07:23 PM
My apologies, my previous post may have be misconstrued. I've reread it and cannot find where it implies that I'm being "fooled by appearances." In fact, I'm not sure what that statement means or implies. My previous post never mentioned that big biz was in one parties pocket only. I suggested it was infiltrating and polluting the construct of our democratic process -- becoming one of the primary problems we citizens face today. Furthermore I stated that to suggest it's one party's, one institution's or one issue's fault is folly. Sorry to restate everything again. I just wanted to make sure it was clear that I wasn't fooled by any appearances. . . whatever that implies. It may be my fault for not understanding that statement. It may be that was meant for someone else. To which I apologize for this misunderstanding. I need clarity during a discussion. I'll always ask for definition and reasoning behind unrelated and/or disruptive remarks. Anyway, thanks for the interesting discourse. I'm enjoying it. As is The Patch, I'm sure. I love The Patch.
Matthew Hendrickson March 26, 2011 at 12:33 AM
We do love starting a conversation!
John J March 26, 2011 at 04:08 PM
Chad, as an Independent I am tired of the destructive manner in which Republicans bash Democrats and vice-a-versa. What ever happened to finding common ground that takes into considerations the interests of all of the citizens of this great country....not just the unions, or just business, or just government? I'm all for small businesses getting ahead and providing jobs, but let them do it on their own bottom, not by taxpayer subsidies...ditto for big business. Why should Exxon Mobil (with its record breaking profits) and Archer Daniels Midlands get $Billion subsidies from the government (taxpayers)? The formulas for determining municipal and teachers pensions in Illinois invited abuse, yet various government bodies controlled by both Dems and Reps did little or nothing to correct this. Stop throwing stones at each other and get on with the business of running this country with civility and concern for what is in the best interest of the people. Makes one wish we had a real, functioning multi-party system.
John J March 26, 2011 at 04:12 PM
Chad, Yes, yes, yes it's all the Dems fault. The Republicans are saints dressed in teflon armor . A pox on both their houses.

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