Our Opinion: Voters need budget details --- and soon

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Gov. Pat Quinn likes to attack Republican challenger Bill Brady for failing to have a budget plan.

Brady says he’ll slash the state’s budget and scrutinize every dollar spent to root out waste and fraud.

Both candidates need to be more transparent about exactly where the cuts will come and what will be the real human impact.

The debate over who will more effectively handle the state’s budget came into sharper focus at the Illinois State Fair on Tuesday where Brady said he couldn’t provide specifics on how he’ll get rid of 10 percent of state outlays. Instead, he plans to bring in experts to analyze the budget and tell him where to cut.

For his part, Quinn has outlined general cuts amounting to $1.4 billion. From his website, Quinn directs visitors to a budget document that details many of the proposed cuts listed by agency and program. The problem is that while Quinn’s data is much more specific than that provided by Brady, it still fails to get at the toll the cost cuts will have.

We’d normally grant Brady a little slack since he’s not the incumbent and understanding the state’s budget from the outside looking in can be difficult. But Brady is no stranger to the Capitol, having served as a senator in a legislature that collectively has gotten us to where we are today. Surely, his tenure has given him some specifics of where to go for the money.

We can’t cut Quinn much slack on this issue, either. He does a much better job outlining his plan, but like any budget document it fails to get at some harsh realities. Line after line in the document notes that there will be savings from not filling positions quickly and that operational efficiencies will be realized in various ways, but there’s little color on precisely what that will mean.

Both Quinn and Brady are asking voters to trust them to do the right thing to fix the state’s perilous financial status.

Voters have trusted.

Voters have been burned.

Which is why more information from both candidates is critical if voters are to have a clear understanding of what they are signing on for when they cast a vote in November.