Thursday, February 2, 2012

Governor’s Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Address
Rendezvous with Reality

SUAA email update.

Governor Pat Quinn delivered his Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Address with a call for fundamental and lasting budget reform coupled with plans to grow and build the Illinois economy.

First on his agenda are the public pension systems. The Governor called for a “collaborative approach to strengthening and stabilizing our pension systems.” What does this mean? If we follow the Governor’s train of thought, the first step was taken in 2010 when Public Act #96 created the two-tier system with significant reductions in benefits for state employees first employed on or after January 1, 2011.

A pension working group made up of Senators Mike Noland (D-22); Bill Brady (R- 44); and Representatives Elaine Nekritz (D-57); Darlene Senger (R-96) is charged with soliciting input from all interested stakeholders and recommending a framework for “solving our pension challenges.” Their deadline is Tuesday, April 17. Yes, of this year.

“Everything is on the table for our pension working group.” Governor Quinn did not champion any specific measures at this time.

Next up was the restructuring of Illinois’ Medicaid system which the Governor characterized as “collapsing.” Falling $1.9 billion short in Medicaid payments during the last fiscal year; Governor Quinn cites a Civic Federation report that predicts $21 billion in unpaid Medicaid bills by 2017 “if fundamental restructuring is not implemented immediately.”

Quinn proposes a Medicaid restructure that includes trimming the Medicaid eligibility pool, limiting the services provided, and addressing the utilization of those services and payment amounts. He also called for further protections against fraud and abuse in the Medicaid system.

The Medicaid working group consists of Senators Heather Steans (D-7), Dale Righter (R-55) and Representatives Sara Fiegenholtz (D-12), Patti Bellock (R-47) and Healthcare and Family Services Director Julie Hamos.

Governor Quinn formally announced the closing of the following institutions: Jacksonville Developmental Center, Jacksonville; the Murray Developmental Center in Centralia; and mental health hospitals in Tinley Park and Rockford. 59 other State facilities will be closed or consolidated across the state, including prisons in Tamms and Dwight.

$43 million will be saved by consolidating and reducing lease space for State offices. The Governor’s own office budget will be cut by 9 percent.

Among proposed budget expansion, the Governor will increase direct care staff at the four Illinois’ veterans’ homes. In addition, he urged passage of the Hiring Veterans Tax Credit.

On the education front, this year’s budget calls for close to $9 billion in spending with priorities in early childhood education and Monetary Assistance Program scholarships for qualified students attending college. Quinn launched a school construction and repair initiative as part of the Illinois Jobs Now! program to create 4,000 construction jobs.

Finally, Governor Quinn targeted loopholes in the Illinois Revenue Code which allow oil companies to avoid Illinois corporate income tax. The savings generated by closing corporate tax loopholes and eliminating the natural gas utility tax will reportedly be used to provide tax relief in the form of a proposed Child Tax Credit.

Governor Quinn began his address by promising to tell us the truth, trusting that we “can handle the truth.” He closed by declaring it time to put progress ahead of politics in Illinois.

Time will tell.

As a footnote: District numbers used for legislators are the current districts.

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