Legislators seeking budget cuts first

2010-05-23T00:01:00Z Legislators seeking budget cuts firstBy ROB STROUD - H&R Staff Writer Herald-Review.com
May 23, 2010 12:01 am  • 

MATTOON - Two East Central Illinois Republican legislators will not support a state budget proposal containing an income tax increase unless the state first substantially cuts spending.

State Rep. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, said he believes the state will not have a balanced budget until wasteful spending is cut. He said Gov. Pat Quinn's proposed income tax increase would still leave an approximately $4 billion "hole" in the budget.

"The No. 1 priority has to be to stop digging the hole," Rose said. "Proponents say we have to have a tax increase. I say stop digging the hole, and then we will talk."

Rose estimated the state could save more than $2 billion by conducting a forensic audit of state spending and then taking action on the findings. He also estimated that the state could save $1.5 billion by cutting wasteful spending and fraud in the Medicaid system, including requiring photo identification for Link cards so they are not misused.

Still, Rose emphasized that legislative leaders are working on a budget proposal and he is awaiting details about it in the days to come.

"It is all very fluid and up in the air," Rose said. "I am not going to say I will vote for or against (the budget proposal) until I see it."

State Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, said trying to balance the budget based on just an income tax increase would be "untenable." He compared increasing income taxes without first reforming state spending to pouring more water into a bucket without first plugging the hole in the bottom.

"The faster it pours in, the faster it is going to pour out," Righter said.

Righter said the state has collected $7 billion in additional revenue during the past seven years, but its spending has been "wasteful and inefficient." He added that the state also needs to better manage and control enrollment in the Medicaid system, in which spending is growing at the "unsustainable" rate of 8 percent a year.

The senator said the state needs to create a multiyear financial plan for projecting revenue and cutting spending. Otherwise, long-term funding for education, health care and other programs will be in jeopardy.

"The longer we delay, it's going to get worse," Righter said.

rstroud@jg-tc.com|238-6861

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