SPRINGFIELD - Calling it the most difficult budget the State of Illinois has ever faced, Governor Pat Quinn challenged state legislators to act on pension reform in his annual 'State of the Budget' address. He noted to the joint session that not one vote has yet been taken on comprehensive public employee pension reform.
"The hard work starts with public pension reform," Quinn told lawmakers, noting that every day they don't act, the pension bill grows by $17 million per day.
"What are you waiting for?" the Governor pleaded, saying he's ready to sign a bill as long as it guarantees the pension obligation is paid in full, state employees contribute more to their pensions, and no tax increase to pay for pensions is involved.
The Governor told legislators he has aggressively cut where he could. He hailed the new contract agreement with 35,000 AFSCME state employee which he says will save $900 million in health care costs over the life of the contract. He did not mention, however, the close to $200 million in pay increases included in the same deal.
Quinn's budget keeps the state's 'temporary' 5% income tax rate in tact. The Governor also proposed a corporate tax increase in his $35.6 billion budget to help curtail the severe backlog in the state's unpaid bills. He wants the elimination of 'tax loopholes' he claims will increase state revenues by hundreds of millions of dollars.
The biggest loser in the Governor's budget is education. While Gov. Quinn does not cut early childhood education or scholarships to low-income students, his proposed budget does include major cuts to the overall public education system. State aid to public schools would be cut by $278 million while cuts to colleges and universities could go as high as $80 million.
The Governor also announced an executive order to eliminate or consolidate 75 boards and commissions, and asked state agencies to save where they could, noting his own office has reduced its budget.
Look for a summary and reaction to the Governor's address tonight on Eyewitness News on WTVO-17 and Fox-39.