During Gov. Pat Quinn's budget address today he outlined proposals to cut education spending and challenged legislators to move on pension reform. Education funding would be cut by 3 percent under the governor's proposal, which also included reductions in spending on several social services programs. The governor also hinted that he would support a gambling expansion bill, legislation he has already vetoed two times with the latest occurring this week.
Quinn called on legislators to act when it comes to pension reform and blamed state lawmakers for the lack of progress in this area. "What are you waiting for," he asked legislators during the speech. Quinn proposed that cost-of-living increases, or COLAs, be temporarily halted for those with large pensions as a means of cost savings.
“This year’s budget is a tough pill to swallow," he added. "But it’s only managing the symptoms of a grievous condition that threatens the fiscal health of our state. If we are to ensure a bright future for the people of Illinois, we must cure this condition. We must enact fundamental pension reform."
But the We Are One coalition rejects the governor's blame for the dismal state of Illinois' finances.
"We appreciate that Governor Quinn has appeared to embrace critical elements of our plan, but we disagree with the false choices framed in the Governor's proposed budget," the coalition said in a statement. "The actual cost of today’s pensions is negligible compared to the cost of debt accrued by politicians who failed for decades to pay the state’s share. It is misguided to blame the modest pensions earned by teachers, police, caregivers and other public employees for harmful cuts to education and essential public services."
The governor did outline cuts to three corporate tax loopholes, which the coalition agrees with and has suggested in the past (although they would like to see more), that could bring in some $445 million annually to the cash-strapped state.
Check back with Progress Illinois for our full report on the governor's budget address.