Illinois Public Media News
Illinois governor Pat Quinn is holding to his goal of getting state bills paid within a 30 day period. The governor is touring health-care establishments in downstate Illinois, places that have been waiting months for reimbursements from the state for Medicaid and other expenses. Quinn stood next to the pharmacy inside a supermarket in Savoy this morning to tout a budget plan that includes an income tax increase and additional tax burdens on businesses.
We have to clear off an 11.5 billion dollar deficit and balance the budget. It may take castor oil, but so be it," said Quinn. "The Land of Lincoln is not a deadbeat and never will be."
Quinn's pharmacy backdrop was to highlight businesses he says are hurting because the state isn't paying its reimbursements on time. Mark Black is a Danville nursing home administrator who says he's getting insistent letters from creditors who normally understand the payment backlog.
"If we're in a system where we're not being reimbur4sed and reimbursed on a timely basis, it puts our residents at risk. And it certainly makes it difficult in our community to pay to local vendors the bills that we owe them," said Black.
Quinn is also maintaining his opposition to raising the state motor fuel tax to help pay for a 26 billion dollar capital construction plan for the state.
Higher education would get a slight increase in funding in a year when many other states are preparing their colleges and universities to accept flat funding or cuts.
Governor Quinn's budget proposal lifts operating funds for higher education by a little over one percent - in the University of Illinois' case, that means a nearly eight million dollar boost from the current year, to around 750 million dollars.
U of I spokesman Tom Hardy says that's not close to what the school requested, but it's realistic.
"When you look at what's been proposed here, you see an increase in operating appropriations for the University that makes us whole on the 2 1/2% cut that we received in the current fiscal year, and then adds another one percent on top of that," said Hardy.
Governor Quinn's proposal for a capital bill also includes U of I projects, including the long-postponed renovation of Lincoln Hall and money for a new engineering and computer building. But Hardy is expressing caution, saying the state hasn't passed a capital bill in several years.
A member of the legislative majority says he sees good faith in Governor Quinn's budget proposal, but he would still like to see some changes.
Democratic Senator Mike Frerichs of Champaign acknowledges that many lawmakers and the public are questioning the size of the tax increases in the plan. "I think there are those of us who would like to see a little more detail about what cuts we need to make in Illinois government first. I think there are more opportunities for cuts out there. But I think overall deficit reduction will be some combination of cuts in state services as well as revenue enhancement," said Frerichs.
Frerichs also says the proposed income tax hike was made fairer paired with a higher exemption for lower-income families. But he says it might stifle efforts from him and other downstate lawmakers to swap higher state taxes for lower local property taxes to fund education.
Pontiac Republican Senator Dan Rutherford says he credits Governor Quinn for unveiling a budget proposal free of smoke and mirrors. But he says Illinois families can't take the hit of a 50% income tax hike during the current economic crisis, calling the plan a 'non-starter.' And Rutherford says a proposal to boost corporate taxes and remove a manufacturer tax credit will hurt the incentive of companies to expand and create jobs. He says this is especially true in his district, where employers like Interlake and Caterpillar are already faced with layoffs:
"When it's time for investment into their plants, and a manufacturer says it's time to upgrade my tooling or upgrade my machinery, I think it's appropriate for us to give them credit and benefit in Illinois so they do it here rather than in another state, which those big companies can do," said Rutherford.
Rutherford says he's also concerned the Governor will shortchange Illinois' pension system by skipping payments. Fellow Republican Chapin Rose of Mahomet, a state representative, went further, calling the income tax hike proposal an assault on the middle class.
But Democratic Representative Naomi Jakobsson of Urbana wanted to remind colleagues that the Governor's proposal only forms the basis for budget debate over the next few weeks, and she blamed former Governor Rod Blagojevich for putting the state in its current situation.
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has laid out his budget plan to get the state's finances on track. But lawmakers have yet to get on board.
During his budget address Wednesday, Quinn cautioned the General Assembly that the state won't be able to cut its way out of the financial crisis. He called such thinking mean spirited and says it would lead to layoffs as well as to children and the elderly losing access to health care, saying he believes people would not support a "doomsday budget."
Governor Quinn says an historic budget deficit forced him to propose hikes in the income tax, vehicle registrations, cigarette purchases and call for employee furloughs and major changes in government pensions. But Palatine Republican Senator Matt Murphy says he doesn't buy Quinn's claims about further spending cuts.
"They're not easy and I'm not here to say it is," said Murphy. "But you can either raise taxes that will put more people out of work or you can balance the budget like everyone is having to do at home."
Lawmakers will debate the budget plan.... and likely make changes to it... over the next couple of months.
Governor Quinn addressed the Illinois General Assembly at noon today.
Many people in the Champaign-Urbana area had a soft spot for Pages for All Ages, a bookstore that welcomed local readers for more than 20 years to its single store, first in Champaign, then in Savoy. Pages abruptly closed its doors for good this week, citing the economy. It's not been an easy go for independent book retailers over the last few years, especially as Amazon and other Internet outlets joined Borders and Barnes and Noble as major competitors. The director of the American Booksellers Association, Avin Mark Donmitz, says Pages fell by the wayside as the group's other members are preparing for a difficult immediate future. He spoke to AM 580's Tom Rogers.
Chancellor Richard Herman presided at a town hall meeting Thursday (Jan. 22) about the campus and university budget. The event was open to the campus community, and was broadcast live on WILL-AM. Among the topics Herman, Provost Linda Katehi and others discussed the state of the current budget and plans for meeting budget challenges. A lively discussion followed the formal presentation, with many in the audience asking questions and commenting on the information presented.
The president of the University of Illinois sent out an email to faculty, staff and students Wednesday, discussing the financial problems facing the university during the current recession. The economic downtown has already caused the U of I to postpone plans to either renovate of replace the 46-year old Assembly Hall on the Urbana campus. In a conversation with Jim Meadows, B. Joseph White said he hopes to avoid layoffs and unpaid furloughs --- but won't rule them out.
This month the International Monetary Fund released a bleak outlook for economic growth in the United States and many European countries in 2009. The IMF estimates the US economy will grow by only 0.1 percent -- and for countries like Spain, the United Kingdom and Italy, it projects a probable recession. Under the current EU presidency of France, the European Union is working to get its economies back on track. AM 580's Michael Koliska talked with France's Ambassador to the US, Pierre Vimont, as he visited the UI. Vimont says currently, Europe is working on three fronts.
Rural America has seen an exodus of residents and businesses for decades. But now it's evolving into a garden spot for entrepreneurs. Many don't have much of a choice - jobs in large companies or farms are drying up, and self-employment helps pay the bills. Still others (like Becky and Freddy Smith, left) get into business for love of their communities - they're helping small-town storefronts spring back to life. What can government do to help them out? AM 580's Tom Rogers reports on the challenges these rural entrepreneurs face, and what the presidential candidates want to do about it.
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