Pension reform, Medicaid cuts, and fundamental tax reforms were all topics of Governor Pat Quinn’s annual budget address. He spoke before the General Assembly, sharing his ideas on how to fix Illinois’ financial troubles. He said the time to achieve fundamental and lasting budget reform is now, starting with pensions, which make up 15% of the general fund.
“We need to do pension reform in a way that’s meaningful, constitutional and fair to the employees who have faithfully contributed to the system,” said Quinn.
A pension reform taskforce in Springfield, that includes Naperville State Representative Darlene Senger, is working on finding a solution with a deadline of April 17th.
As a part of Quinn’s proposed budget, 59 government buildings will close or consolidate, including the Fox Valley Adult Transition Center in Aurora. Other buildings include the Dwight and Tamms Correctional Centers downstate, Department of Human Services Buildings, and Department of Children and Family Services offices.
Quinn also wants to work with lawmakers to find the loopholes in the Illinois Revenue Code. Closing them will help fund new tax cuts he’s trying to push through, like ending the natural gas utility tax, helping companies who hire veterans, and assisting families with children.
“From a concept standpoint, I’m in favor of it, but it kind of concerns me that we’re talking about these individual things out there when just a year ago he implemented the largest income tax increase in the history of this state,” said Dan Rutherford, State Treasurer. “What I would prefer to see is more of a comprehensive discussion on taxes. It’s kind of like whack-a-mole, like an issue comes up and you whack it, and another issue comes up and you whack it.”
Another program in Illinois that Quinn says needs major reform is Medicaid. Currently, half of Illinois babies are born into the program.
“If you’re making $70,000 a year and you’re a family of four, you’re eligible for Medicaid,” said State Representative Michael Connelly. “So technically a state representative who’s only income is being a state representative at $64,000 a year is eligible for Medicaid. Welcome to Springfield folks.”
Quinn says to save Illinois’ Medicaid program, the state must reduce program spending by $2.7 billion in the coming year. But for Medicaid reform, or any of Quinn’s other suggestions to become law, they’ll first have to get the approval of the General Assembly. The new budget begins July 1st.
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