Illinois Public Media News
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.
The Champaign City Council voted Tuesday night to endorse a plan to fill a projected six-million dollar budget shortfall, created by a drop in city tax revenues.
The study session vote gives Champaign city staff the go-ahead to develop a budget plan that cuts spending, moves more money into the general fund from other areas, and increases some city fees while creating new ones. Council members had questions about the fees, as well as proposed cuts in staff postions --- all of them currently vacant, or expected to become vacant soon.
Council member Marci Dodds says despite her misgivings, she thinks the overall proposal will fill a budget hole without doing lasting harm to city services. "The whole goal", says Dodds, "was not to have tremendous impact on the public, or to just do a slice-and-dice, across-the-board cut; but really, to do this so we would preserve core city services".
Council members paid particular attention to the changes in city fees. Champaign Finance Director Richard Schnuer says the fee changes make up only about 20 percent of the overall proposal, and that the details are subject to change. The fee proposals include a more than 13-thousand percent jump in the license fee for ambulance services, an expansion of the natural gas tax to cover non-AmerenIP customers and a hike in the city franchise fee for cable TV customers.
Schnuer says they'll present a complete budget proposal to the city council in six weeks. Council members will review in study sessions in May, before taking a final vote in June.
The city of Urbana does NOT plan a similar cut to its budget. Mayor Laurel Prussing says she's been told by city comptroller Ron Eldridge that sales tax dollars from new retail developments puts Urbana on a firmer financial footing that some other local communities.
Governor Quinn addressed the Illinois General Assembly at noon today.
An agribusiness leader from Greenville is Governor Pat Quinn's choice to serve as the next University of Illinois Trustee. U of I graduate Ed McMillan is a former CEO with Ralston Purina Company who now runs a consulting business. He's also stayed involved with the university, serving on its Alumni Association and U of I Foundation Boards, and heads the board of managers that oversees U of I Research Parks in Champaign and Chicago. Once his appointment is confirmed by the Illinois Senate, McMillan says he wants to draw on that research, working further to lure new technology to the campuses. And he says a 'nimble and creative' approach to higher education funding will help yield some of those benefits.
"That leads to the ability to attract and retain what I would call world class people to the institution in both teaching and research and development of tecnology and outreach," says McMillan. "That is, of course, very important to the college of ag and to agribusiness in Illinois, but outreach and extension is also very important to rural community and community development." The 63-year old McMillan is a 1969 agriculture science graduate. He's a Republican, and says he wasn't seeking out the office, but is honored to be asked. McMillan will replace Robert Sperling on the Board of Trustees, and will be one of three downstate voting members.
Mahomet Republican House member Chapin Rose calls McMillan a 'quality pick,' saying he's happy that Governor Quinn is following through on a recent pledge to tap U of I alumni groups for trustee considerations. Rose and other local lawmakers recently signed a resolution with that request.
Most polling places in Champaign County already had voters lined up at 6 am, eager to be among the first voters in what would become a watershed election. That zeal continued through the day, and when all the votes were counted, the county and region posted near record turnout. AM 580's Tom Rogers recaps a hectic day that ended in history being made.
If you're a Champaign County resident who fears rising tax bills during a shaky economy, the resuults from the general elections are good -- all four tax hike questions on the ballot were defeated. Townships, school districts and the county forest preserve district sought the tax increases. But in every case, the answer from voters was no. AM 580's Jim Meadows reports.
Republicans have been hurt by the Bush administration's low approval ratings. Some members of Congress from traditionally conservative districts are having more trouble fending off Democratic challengers. But local incumbent Tim Johnson of the 15th district could be one of the safest Republicans up for re-election. AM-580 intern Whitney Wyckoff has more.
Here's another indicator of an unusual election year: the tightest legislative election in eastern Illinois involves not an open seat nor a vulnerable rookie lawmaker -- but one of the state's most senior legislators. 22 years in the statehouse have brought Bill Black of Danville a high profile and a devoted following. But as AM 580's Tom Rogers reports, an unusual chain of events has led to a battle with first-term Vermilion County board member Lori DeYoung.
Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Rietz says a change in philosophy has allowed some of those who go through the justice system to take responsibility for what they've done, recover and get on with their lives. But challenger Janie Miller-Jones disagrees with that assessment and says the office needs to do more to prevent crime to begin with. AM 580's Jeff Bossert previews the race for State's Attorney.
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