Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Quinn's budget address delayed until after the primary election

By Jamey Dunn

Gov. Pat Quinn will be giving his budget address later than originally planned this year.

The Illinois Senate today approved Senate Bill 1227, which moves the date of the budget address from February 19 to March 26. The House passed the bill Tuesday, and Quinn plans to sign it when it arrives on his desk. That means that he will wait until after the March primary election to present his vision for the state’s budget for Fiscal Year 2015 and beyond. Quinn’s office says he needs the extra time because he intends to present a five-year plan instead of the traditional one-year proposal. “In addition to presenting his budget on March 26, the governor will also present a five-year budget blueprint. Now that the budget picture is more stabilized — with pension reform, Medicaid overhaul, spending cuts, contract negotiations, collective bargaining agreement, etc. in place — we need to look at the bigger budget picture as we craft this year’s budget,and account for upcoming savings in order to develop the necessary solution that provides taxpayers and businesses with long-term certainty,” said a statement from Quinn’s office.

“I appreciate and applaud the approach by the governor’s office. This is what people are asking for when it comes to financial accountability,” said Democratic Sen. Dan Kotowski of Park Ridge, chair of one of the Senate’s budgeting committees. Kotowski said businesses in Illinois want to see long-term budget planning from state government. Supporters of the bill also noted that FY 2015 would be a difficult budget year because the temporary income tax increase will begin to sunset, taking more than $1 billion in revenue with it.

But Republicans say they aren’t buying it. “This is a total political sham,” said Palatine Republican Sen. Matt Murphy. He said it was insulting to frame the issue as a step toward good government. “Today’s request is purely political,” said GOP gubernatorial hopeful Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale. “The governor is waiting to see who his Republican opponent is.”

Bloomington Sen. Bill Brady, one of Dillard’s challengers in the Republican primary, agreed. “He needs to deliver his budget address, so the people of Illinois can know what is in it and we can debate that.”

Senate President John Cullerton said that moving the budget address is something lawmakers have done several times, including moving it for Republican Gov. Jim Edgar. Cullerton took a swipe at Brady and Dillard, who both ran for governor in 2010, when he suggested that members of the Senate use the original date as a time to present their own budget ideas. “Surely people who have been running for governor for five years have some idea about what their budget should be,” he said. “For those who are disappointed in this, February 19th is the day to have your budgets ready.” Brady beat Dillard in the 2010 primary and went on to lose the general election to Quinn. Brady, Dillard and the other Republicans running for governor — Bruce Rauner and Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford — have all avoided giving many specifics on how they would handle the state’s budget.

 Both chambers plan to begin their budgeting process, even though Quinn’s speech will be delayed. “The governor is asking for a delay, but here in the House we aren’t asking for a delay. We’re going to move forward expeditiously,” House Speaker Michael Madigan said during Tuesday’s floor debate. 

The House’s Revenue and Finance committee has already begun holding hearings on its revenue estimate for FY 2015. In recent years, the final budget approved by lawmakers has been based on the estimated produced by the committee. Marion Democratic Rep. John Bradley, who chairs the committee, said that he thought Quinn’s request is “deferential” to lawmakers, who have already started working on the budget. “The House is really the driver of the state budget,” Bradley said. “The last few years, the governor has attempted to make budgets and to put out numbers and disregarded the House Revenue and Finance Committee and this chamber, and it didn’t go well for him.”

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