(Springfield, IL) — May 20, 2010. Democratic lawmakers say the state’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year will be finalized in a matter of days, even though consensus on key matters is still lacking.
Lawmakers are planning to return to Springfield next week and Democrats want to finalize a budget to pass to Governor Pat Quinn before May 31.
State Rep. Frank Mautino (D-Spring Valley) a leading House budget negotiator, said there are two roadblocks with budget negotiations — whether or not the state makes its annual pension contribution and whether or not lawmakers should grant Quinn emergency budget powers.
Lawmakers are trying to decide between a borrowing plan to make a $3.7 billion contribution to the state’s public employee pension systems, or skipping this year’s contribution and losing out on millions of dollars in interest that would have been gained by pension system investments.
Last year, lawmakers from both parties voted for a borrowing plan that would allow the state to make its annual contribution.
This year, the atmosphere has changed – Republicans have taken a harder line against borrowing for the pensions.
But with the state mired in $6 billion in unpaid bills, Democrats claim the state is fiscally limited in alternatives.
“Many of the members that I talk to on the Republican side know that it is a disastrous move to skip the payment and not allow the borrowing, but are not willing to make that vote (for pension borrowing). And that’s probably the most political part of the budget,” Mautino said.
State Senator Mike Jacobs (D-East Moline) said Republicans are posturing for November’s general election and aren’t being realistic with the state’s fiscal crisis.
Jacobs added that unless the state wants to lose out on essential services, a tax increase is going to occur, no matter if Quinn or State Senator Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) becomes governor.
“By the time this increase comes, people are going to really see that it’s necessary,” he said. “Because then all of these cuts are going to be Draconian, they will be just devastating to social services and education to Illinois.”
As for granting Quinn emergency powers, Mautino said Democratic lawmakers are concerned Quinn could make widespread cuts to important education and human service programs.
But Mautino added that House Democrats are likely to vote for providing Quinn broad spending authority by May 31, or risk stalling the budget process.
“We have some members that are currently off the reservation on a buffalo hunt someplace,” Mautino said. “But they’ll come back in and realize that beyond May 31, it takes 71 votes to do anything, and therefore a lot of things will shut down
Democrats currently have 70 members in the House and any proposals debated after May 31, including budget proposals, would require 71 votes for passage.
Jacobs said there was “no profit” for Democrats to hold out after May 31 when they can pass a budget to the governor without Republican support.
House lawmakers are planning to return on Monday at 4:00 p.m.
Kevin Lee–Illinois Statehouse News