CARBONDALE -- Democrat Jeremy Walker called on the Illinois General Assembly Wednesday to override Gov. Pat Quinn's amendatory veto that would restore the $100 million cut from higher education.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Walker, an attorney from Red Bud challenging Republican state Sen. David Luechtefeld in the Nov. 2 election, made the call from the Student Center at Southern Illinois University Carbondale flanked by state Sen. John Sullivan, a Rushville based Democrat who chairs the Appropriations II Committee.
Quinn's amendatory veto cut higher education by 7 percent of its fiscal year 2010 funding levels bringing it to an allocation not seen since 1999.
Walker also touted what he calls a "One-Third/Two-Third Funding Formula" for schools, which would direct 33 percent of the state allocation for education to higher education and 66 percent for K-12.
"I wish I had thought of it," Sullivan said during his remarks.
Walker said he would work to find ways for the state to release promised dollars to higher education in a more timely manner. He went as far to say new revenue is needed to support education programs, but would not specify if that meant new taxes or cuts from other parts of the budget.
No one wants to raise taxes, but it might be necessary if spending cuts following a thorough review of the state budget did not muster sufficient funds for education, he said.
Though he admitted he was not as versed on the legislation, Walker said he had a problem with the much acclaimed HB 174 because it did not restrict lawmakers from starting new programs with those allocated tax dollars. He said new programs should only be started after the state has taken care of it prior obligations.
Wednesday's availability came across as a push by the Walker campaign to better establish their candidate in the 58th District's only sure-thing county. The large number of state employees and support for SIU usually means Jackson County is the one blip of blue in the ocean of red that is southern Illinois. Some neighboring counties to the east, such as Williamson and Hardin, have favored Democratic candidates in the past, but are not within the district.
But there's still some question as to whether or not Walker can overcome Luechtefeld's name recognition here without playing a little dirty. Luechtefeld was a basketball coach in Okawville, which earned him strong popularity before he became an elected official.
Previously, the Walker camp was relying on volunteers going door-to-door and making appearances at some Democratic rallies. Earlier this summer, Walker said he did not intend to attack Luechtefeld, but revised that statement Wednesday to specify personal attacks. He quickly took issue with some of Luechtefeld's votes in Springfield afterwards.
And by coming out against one of Quinn's decisions subtly hints that Walker is now part of the downstate Democrats distancing themselves from the governor as he continues to struggle in the polls. It's been theorized that Quinn's poor popularity is holding Democrats down as well.
Senate Democrat staffers made camp here shortly after the Legislature left Springfield for the summer under the impression Luechtefeld could fall victim to this year's anti-incumbent movement. The Republicans followed shortly afterwards by dispatching their own staffers to the district to hold the ground.
So far there have not been any significant ad buys, but yard signs are beginning to pop-up.
Campaign staffers from both sides said Wednesday they have conducted in-district polling, but were reluctant to share the results with the media. A Walker campaign aid said the first-time Senate candidate is closer to Luechtefeld than most gave him credit a year ago, but would not go into specifics.