Illinois Senate Leaders John Cullerton, Christine Radogno Differ on Illinois Budget Process, Revenue Projections

(Springfield, IL) — Illinois Senate Republicans and Democrats agree that cuts are a must to balance next year’s budget, but they argue over exactly how to do it.

After the Senate on Friday passed several measures to make payments to state pension funds, Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said they would have to slash about $1.2 billion from Gov. Pat Quinn’s $35.4 billion budget to balance the checkbook for the next fiscal year.

Cullerton said he wants to see lawmakers in the coming weeks suggest changes to the approximately 40 different pieces of legislation that make up Quinn’s proposed budget, a move Cullerton said would make the process more “open and transparent.”

“We’re not suggesting going behind closed doors, and having a take it or leave it plan that we dump on the desk of the members,” said Cullerton, who compared the process to budgets in recent years.

Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, welcomed the idea of more cuts, but wanted to see fewer political “games” and a more holistic framework.

“We’re saying let’s participate in a bipartisan process. That’s why we committed to put half the votes on any of these cuts. But you don’t accomplish that by having a series of a partisan roll calls, and then turn around and use them in campaign brochures,” said Radogno, who said she hoped to see the governor’s office taking part in discussions.

For it’s part, Quinn’s office said it is welcoming collaboration with the Senate and the Illinois House of Representatives.

“We have been at the tables with Republicans and Democrats on both sides of the aisle, getting their feedback, working with them, having them have insight to all of our proposals,” said Kelly Kraft, spokeswoman for Quinn’s budget office.

The Senate estimates that the state will have $34.3 billion to spend for next fiscal year’s budget, a number senators based on information from the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability. On the House side, lawmakers are using a lower $33.2 billion budget estimate.

Radogno said she’s leaning toward House numbers and waiting for their cuts to be voted on in the Senate.

But Cullerton stood behind COGFA’s numbers Friday, calling it a bipartisan commission.

“That’s why we then have to deal with the House, and we have to work with the House, apparently even on revenue estimates and what the cuts are,” Cullerton said.

If the cuts don’t go far enough, Republicans won’t be voting on them individually, Radogno said.

Republicans issued a proposal last month that suggested more than $6 billion in possible cuts from Quinn’s budget. The Republican members said to make a balanced budget and ensure the recently passed personal and corporate income tax increase expires in four years, somewhere around $5 billion of possible cuts need to be enacted.

“Do they envision this tax increase being temporary or not? And the decisions that we make today on spending are what will determine whether or not it is temporary or not, or if there even needs to be another tax increase in a few years,” Radogno said.

Melissa Leu, Illinois Statehouse News

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