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Illinois Racing Toward Budget Cliff; Senate GOP Says Cuts Must Happen Now

Thu March 10 2011 8:25 pm
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Illinois is racing toward a budget cliff that will leave the state with an annual deficit of $8 billion and a cumulative deficit of more than $22 billion within five years, Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) said Thursday.

“Illinois is on a path that is not only designed to make the 67% temporary income tax permanent, but which will force even larger tax increases in the future,” Radogno said. “There is a clear contrast here in Springfield. We believe the only long-term solution is to address spending and bring it into line with available revenues. Unfortunately, others in the State House continue to talk only about how to increase taxes.”

Radogno said a Senate Republican review of spending and revenue trends makes it apparent that it will take between $4 to $6 billion in additional spending reductions to the Governor’s proposed budget in order to put the state back on track.

Radogno and state senators Matt Murphy (R-Palatine) and Pamela Althoff (R-McHenry), the Senate Republicans’ top two budget experts, said a careful analysis of state spending and revenues shows that massive deficits will occur if lawmakers adopt the Governor’s proposed budget and adhere to “spending caps” that are in fact, far too generous and optimistic than the state’s revenues can sustain.

GOP Senators are working to identify realistic reductions, but before a discussion of cuts can occur, there needs to be a “reality check” so that the public understands how serious the situation is.

“Before you can move on to a solution, you need to define the problem. Unfortunately, too few people in the Statehouse are willing to face up to the problem,” Althoff said. “The spending plan that the Governor put before us would create a deficit every single year for the next five years – and that’s with the 67% tax increase.”

“In fact, the single-year deficit of $8 billion at the end of Fiscal Year 16 is greater than the $6 billion deficit we had at the end of Fiscal Year 10,” Murphy said. “These deficits threaten job growth and undermine our economy. This means that even as the Governor takes a week’s pay from every family in Illinois for the next four years, he’s creating a legacy of debt and deficits that will drive jobs out of Illinois.”

Radogno said Senate Republicans are working to identify a menu of realistic cuts ranging from $4 to $6 billion that can be implemented in order to bring state spending back into line with available revenues. In addition, she said she has set a goal of providing half the necessary votes to implement any savings.

“I’m working with my caucus to meet two marks in the coming weeks,” Radogno said. “First, to identify, genuine reductions and savings that will achieve a minimum of $4 billion in savings. And second, to line up sufficient support within my caucus so that we can put at least 15 votes on any proposal.”

Radogno acknowledged that it is much easier to talk about reductions than to actually line up the votes to make them happen, especially because “within my caucus, there is strong feeling that we did not create this problem over the past eight years.”

“I understand that sentiment and I’m sympathetic to it, but the reality is the situation is so severe that we have no choice. These are going to be tough, tough decisions. I am working to persuade my caucus that we have to meet the majority halfway in order to work our way out of this crisis,” Radogno said.

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