Radogno: Quinn should reduce spending, fix budget

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

At the end of May, most Republican legislators decided they could not support Governor Quinn's plan to borrow billions of dollars.
The governor and Democratic leaders characterized this as a political decision. As the Illinois Senate Republican Leader, I'm proud of our record of forging bipartisan agreements on significant issues, including pension reforms, the state infrastructure investment program and the McCormick Place reform bill. I believe the public is seldom served by officials who lock themselves into rigid positions that do not allow compromise.
When faced with accusations of partisanship, I feel compelled to reexamine my position. In doing so, it became clear that the governor's borrowing plan is wrong for Illinois.
Last July, some members of the Senate Republican caucus, myself included, supported borrowing to make the pension payment. We were willing to give our new governor the benefit of the doubt. He was handed extraordinary powers to manage the budget. He said he would cut $1 billion from spending, reform Medicaid and begin to get our fiscal house in order.

Instead, Gov. Quinn overspent the budget and the backlog of bills grew from $4 billion to $6 billion.
For years, Republicans pushed for spending reductions. We've asked the majority to reform Medicaid. We've pushed for workers' compensation reforms to reduce the cost of doing business, without affecting benefits. The majority declined. As a result, Senate and House committees are littered with stalled proposals to cut spending and reform programs.
The 2009 borrowing program was based on annual payments that decline over time, making the payments more affordable each year and reducing the amount of interest paid. This year's proposal would allow the governor to pay interest only for three years, and then locks Illinois into an unaffordable repayment schedule that culminates in a $1 billion payment. This cycle must stop.
Borrowing can be a reasonable budget tool in the context of a long term plan, but when these new payments come due, there will be no money to make them without even more borrowing.
Some would frame this argument as a decision between borrowing to make the pension payment or skipping the pension payment altogether. It's a false choice. The governor must make the pension payment. The governor should use his extraordinary powers to reduce spending and finally make the budget reductions in other areas of government that are a necessary component of any budget solution.
-- Christine Radogno, Illinois Senate Minority Leader, 41st District