Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Senate Democratic budget greeted with pushback

By Jamey Dunn

Senate Democrats introduced a slew of budget bills today to objections and reservations from both sides of the aisle.

 Democrats say the plan would cut $1.2 billion from Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget proposal.

Senate Republicans say they are glad that the conversation in the Capitol has shifted from new revenues and borrowing to cuts. However, they are skeptical that the plan as proposed makes any reductions to Quinn’s bottom line.

Park Ridge Democratic Sen. Dan Kotowski, chair of a Senate budgeting committee, said the cuts are not just cost shifting but real spending reductions.

He said every state agency would see a 5 percent cut to administrative costs, a 5 percent cut to personnel costs and a 7 percent cut to money spent on contracts. Those cuts would not apply to executive officers. “We’re looking for them to present waste to reduce spending within their budgets,” Kotowski said.

Why the uncertainty? Because the budget came in the form of more than 50 amendments introduced this afternoon. Lawmakers complained that they did not have time to review the plan in its entirety, so Democratic leaders put committee votes on hold.

“If we’re going to deal with this in a holistic approach, whether we can buy into the fact that $1.2 billion solves the problem or not, it would be nice to know what the $1.2 billion is,” said Sen. Bill Brady, a Republican from Bloomington.

Some Democrats said they also felt as if the budget had been dropped in their laps and warned against making hasty decisions. “When we make these cuts, they are real and they affect real people. So we do have to be careful. … We should go through this list slowly, completely and without an eye on what constituents get helped and what constituents get hurt but based on the numbers. It’s easy to say, ‘I want cuts.’ It’s tough to do it,” said Sen. Mike Jacobs, an East Moline Democrat.

Morris Republican Sen. Sue Rezin asked for at least 72 hours notice before a floor vote on any of the budget bills, but Kotowski wouldn’t make any guarantees. “I couldn’t promise you a rose garden if I wanted to,” Kotowski said. “Our goal is to move forward and get votes and to get feedback on the budget.” He said lawmakers have been in talks for month and should not be surprised at the budget numbers. He said lawmakers will now go back to their respective party caucuses to negotiate and hash out what comes next, and a plan to move forward could come as early as tomorrow.

Kotowski added, “I do know that we want to move very quickly just because it’s a challenge to get people to accept the fact that we’re making significant cuts.”


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