Gov. Quinn won't say where he will cut the budget

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

CHICAGO — Gov. Pat Quinn insisted on Tuesday that unlike lawmakers, he's willing to make the tough decisions to cut spending — he's just not quite ready to say how.
At a news conference after an appearance at a Chicago elementary school, the governor would not talk specifics about how he will address a state budget approved by lawmakers that left open a $13 billion shortfall.
"We are going to have to make cuts across the board," Quinn said, before going on to say he hopes to avoid deep cuts to human services, health care, public safety and especially education, which make up the bulk of the state's budget.
"I'm not going to let those school children down," he said.
When asked where he would cut, Quinn talked about legislative salaries and government travel expenses — reductions that would amount to a tiny fraction of the massive budget gap.
Quinn has often criticized his Republican opponent, Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington, for being vague about how he would balance the budget and for suggesting that across-the-board cuts would be necessary.
Quinn had wanted legislators to approve an income tax increase and said he would have no choice to cut education funding if they did not. When they refused, he called for higher cigarette taxes to help support education, but that failed, too.
He criticized lawmakers for leaving a big budget mess in his lap, although they granted the Chicago Democrat's request for unusual authority to decide which programs will get the state's scarce dollars and which won't.
"The bottom line is legislators this year and last year, I think, disappointed me and I think disappointed the people of Illinois by their reluctance to squarely address the fiscal calamity that we're in," he said.
"Legislators don't want to make any cuts where they put their names on them," Quinn said. "I'm willing to do that."
Quinn did say that in the next month and throughout the summer his office would make those decisions so that state agencies and groups waiting to be paid by the state would know how much money they could expect and when it might come.
Quinn also pushed for lawmakers to borrow money to pay the $3.7 billion the government needs to cover the pension benefits for state workers, university employees, downstate teachers and others. The House approved the move last week but the Senate has not.
Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, has said legislators could pass the borrowing plan this summer if Quinn can find some Republicans to support it and on Tuesday, Quinn said he was optimistic he can do so.