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Former Ill. Gov. Edgar Weighs in on State Finances

Illinois lawmakers this week sent Gov. Pat Quinn a plan to pay the state's regional school superintendents and their assistants through local property taxes. Those employees have been working without pay since July after Quinn slashed state support for the office. But former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar, who is a Republican, said that was a vote lawmakers shouldn't have had to make.

"It was a tough vote, but they had to do something to take care of that problem until they resolved the issue," Edgar said. "But the way (Gov. Quinn) tried to resolve it, I think was a huge governmental mistake."

Edgar said Quinn should have talked to the legislature before cutting off funding for the state's regional school superintendents

Edgar served two terms as governor from 1991 to 1999. During his second term, Edgar tried to raise income taxes and lower property taxes to support education programs, but he wasn't able to get enough support from the General Assembly. Edgar said he is not sure that measure would get the needed support now given the state's financial problems.

"If you get the state back where we're paying our bills on time and we got some money in the bank, then maybe you can take a look at a tax reform," he said. "I think until we deal with the immediate problem, we don't have the luxury to deal with tax reform."

Edgar said before lawmakers consider any tax reforms, they should first take care of the state's debt problems through additional cuts.

He also expressed support for a gambling expansion bill that would allow racetracks in the state to operate slot machines, and establish five new casinos in areas, such as Chicago and Danville. The Senate is expected to vote on that measure later this month.

Edgar spoke Friday on the University of Illinois' Urbana campus.

(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)