Archive for March 2011

Michael Madigan, Tom Cross Bring House Bi-Partisanship to Illinois Budget Debate

March 31, 2011

(Springfield, IL) — March 31, 2011. In a rare display of bipartisanship, Illinois House of Representatives Speaker Democratic Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) and Republican leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) appeared together on Wednesday to present the first of several pieces of legislation that could make up the state’s budget for the next year.

This is the first time in several years rank-and-file lawmakers will play an active role in deciding where the money will go. For most of the past decade, legislative leaders from the House and Senate — or just the majority leaders — would meet with the governor and decide on broad appropriations. The governor’s office would then decide line-by-line details.

Additionally, lawmakers last year gave the governor “super” budget powers to increase or decrease lump sums in the budget during the fiscal year.

“I think you’re going to see member-driven budget-making. … A large, large share of these budget-making decisions will be made by the members,” Madigan, D-Chicago, said.

Cross, R-Oswego, said that setting a number the state can spend — in the case of education, that’s $6.8 billion — makes it easier for those receiving state funding to plan for the next fiscal year.

Lawmakers in January increased the personal income tax by 67 percent, and the corporate income tax by 45.9 percent in an effort to collect an additional $6 billion-plus annually. However, the state still has a backlog of bills and other financial obligations totaling $9 billion to $10 billion.

Andrew Thomason, Illinois Statehouse News


Illinois Tax Income Plummets $2.2 Billion in 2012, New Report Says

March 28, 2011

(Springfield, IL) — Tax money coming into state and local governments in Illinois fell sharply —  by $2.2 billion dollars between 2009 and 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The decline in tax revenue from $32 billion to $29.8 billion is on par with a pattern that has emerged during the past several years. Areas that measure a state’s economic health — income, sales and property taxes — all have weakened.

Illinois isn’t alone in watching tax revenue drop off. The 50 states saw a decrease of $14 billion in tax money between 2009 and 2010, according to census numbers.

While income dropped for Illinois, general fund spending increased from $27.9 billion to $29.7 billion between 2009 and 2010.  The total state budget is a combination of general fund spending and other dedicated and federal dollars.

Experts in government and economics say the driving factor behind the numbers was the most recent economic recession.

“We were not expecting, like no one was really expecting back in 2008, that revenues would fall that much,” said Kelly Kraft, spokeswoman for Gov. Pat Quinn’s Office of Budget and Management.

Gov. Pat Quinn Wants to Borrow $2 Billion to Pay Illinois Bills

March 25, 2011

(Springfield, IL) — Is Gov. Pat Quinn’s latest plan a cash advance from the federal government, or another multi-billion dollar borrowing plan?

Quinn wants to borrow $2 billion in short-term loans to help pay off the state’s backlog of debt, totaling $9 billion to $10 billion. About half will go toward paying Medicaid vendors before the enhanced federal match rate drops to 50 percent on July 1. The other half will go toward settling debts with group insurance providers.

“The (governor) feels strongly that we should not leave hundreds of millions of dollars in enhanced federal Medicaid match on the table and is working with legislators on a plan to restructure approximately a billion dollars immediately to take advantage of the enhanced rate prior to its expiration,” said Quinn spokeswoman Kelly Kraft.

The federal stimulus law, passed during the height of the recession in 2009, provided states with about $80 billion in 2009 and 2010 by increasing the federal government’s Medicaid match rate to nursing homes and hospitals, with the caveat that those providers be paid within 30 days. Illinois is being matched at 59 percent until March 31. Afterward, the rate will drop to 57 percent, and ultimately end at its regular match rate of 50 percent on July 1.

Illinois Budget Woes Dominate Lawmakers’ Agenda

March 22, 2011

(Springfield, IL) — As Illinois lawmakers come to the halfway point, many expect there to be plenty of work on the budget before the legislative year is up.

The 97th General Assembly has about two months before they depart for summer break, but any proposals that legislators want to take immediate effect must be passed before May 31 or else it will require a three-fifths vote from both houses.

At the top of everyone’s agenda is figuring out how to deal with the state’s fiscal situation.

“Everywhere I’ve traveled, people are coming up to me discussing, ‘What’s going on with the budget? Why can’t the state manage its budget, manage its finances? Why can’t they get their house into order?’” said Westmont Republican State Rep. Patricia Bellock.

Senate Republicans unveiled a plan last week to cut $6.7 billion from Gov. Pat Quinn’s original budget plan. The governor’s projected budget currently weighs in at $35.4 billion.