Herald & Review

Partisan politics won't solve state's crisis

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Just in case you blinked, here's a summary of Gov. Pat Quinn's actions on the state budget in the last several days.

A couple of weeks ago, it was revealed that Quinn had awarded raises averaging 11.4 percent to his staff at a time when he is cutting funds in other areas of state government. Quinn was roundly criticized for the raises.

So his next step was to announce that nonunion workers in state government will take an additional 12 furlough days off without pay. That brings the number of furlough days to 24 and represents about $18 million in savings. Most state workers, about 93 percent, are represented by unions and not affected by the furlough days.

That should bring everyone up to date.

The moves by Quinn are obviously political, and his opponent in the governor's race, Sen. Bill Brady, said Quinn only ordered the furlough days after "pressure from taxpayers and the media."

Quinn answered back that he didn't need "a lecture from Sen. Brady" and criticized the Bloomington Republican for the number of votes he missed in the Senate.

We need to take a step back from the partisan sniping and put things in perspective.

The state is facing a budget deficit of about $13 billion. With that size of deficit, neither the pay raises nor the furlough days significantly affect the issue.

Raising the pay of his staff while the state is facing such a huge deficit was a mistake by Quinn. He argues that some of the raises were due to promotions and increased work duties. But when the state is nearly bankrupt, raises of that significance are bad policy. It also should be noted that the raises were only discovered after The Associated Press forced the governor's office to release payroll records.

Quinn's reaction of additional furlough days could be a part of the solution, but he did it for the wrong reason. The governor obviously was responding to criticism and trying to avoid the raises being a campaign issue. We need a governor who's in charge, not bowing to the latest political wind.

As for his part, Brady isn't immune from reacting to pressure. He did propose cutting the state budget by 10 percent across the board, then backed away after criticism.

What the state needs is a detailed and practical plan for getting out of its budget mess. That plan should rely primarily on expense reductions, but those reductions need to be weighed and done in a businesslike manner. Neither Quinn nor the General Assembly has made any attempt to attack this problem in a reasonable manner.

Acting on whims and knee-jerk reactions is part of the reason the state's finances are in a mess.

November's election is about leadership, not partisan bickering.

It's time for Brady and Quinn to realize the difference.