Thursday, February 11, 2010

Budget address moved back to March

By Jamey Dunn

Gov. Pat Quinn will be give his budget address next month instead of next week.

Quinn signed a bill today that bumps the date for the address back from next Wednesday to March 10.

Quinn will post general fiscal information on a Web site by February 24. He will accept suggestions about the budget from the legislature and the public via the Web site. Quinn’s budget director, David Vaught, said the governor hopes to allow for more participation in the process, as well as make it more transparent.

Rep. Roger Eddy, a Hutsonville Republican, said he is worried that local governments will not have enough time to plan their budgets because of the delay. He said school districts, which will lose millions in stimulus funding in the 2011 fiscal year, could be especially hurt by the decision.

“That makes it more difficult for providers, and especially school districts who face other statutory deadlines, to make the decisions that they need to make. ... We need the information as soon as possible, and this puts off what is an inevitable bleak picture,” he said.

Eddy added that while he supported making the budgeting process more open, he said he thinks the real intent of the bill is to push difficult decisions to a later date.

“It’s just an attempt to put off and deflect the responsibility for this to others rather than assuming the leadership role. Present a budget in a timely manner so others can make decisions that are appropriate regarding services that they can provide at the local level.”

Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, a Chicago Democrat, said that moving the address back a few weeks will not have a negative effect on the process. “It’s not unusual. Many governors over the years have asked for this opportunity. …We’ve certainly had budget addresses later than March 10. I think this legislature can do its job under the timetable this bill proposes.”

House Speaker Michael Madigan said that after a hard-fought primary election, it is understandable that Quinn might need a little more time.

“This is a reasonable request from a governor who has just come through a contested primary election, where the difference between he and his challenger was one point. So obviously his attention has been somewhat diverted because of the elections,” he said.

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