Calling it the âmost difficult budget ever,â the governor said the state must solve its public-employee pension crisis, which will drain nearly $7 billion of the Illinois general revenue in the coming year.
- Check NIUâs FY2014 Budget website for updates.
However, Quinnâs script did not mention what his budget chief, Jerry Stermer, told reporters Tuesday: The pension obligation in education jumped from $4.1 billion in last yearâs budget to $5 billion, leaving $400 million less for education.
âThis is the most difficult budget I have ever submitted to you,â Quinn told members of the General Assembly who had gathered in Springfield.
âBut this is also an honest budget that reflects our fiscal challenges, pays down the backlog of bills and addresses funds that have been under-appropriated for too long. There are no gimmicks or fake numbers in this budget.â
Quinn scolded the lawmakers for delaying pension reform, saying the state cannot continue on its current path: âWhat are you waiting for?â
âInaction on comprehensive pension reform has left our state with less revenue for our most important priorities. Without pension reform, within two years, Illinois will be spending more on public pensions than on education,â he said.
âEvery day you wait to vote on this matter â the problem gets worse. It is costing taxpayers an additional $17 million a day. Illinois taxpayers are losing patience,â he added.
âIf I could issue an Executive Order to resolve the pension crisis, I would.Â And I would have done it a long time ago. But democracy requires action by the executive branchÂ andÂ the legislative branch.Â Itâs time for you toÂ legislate. So take the vote. Send me a comprehensive pension reform bill.â
Despite the stateâs financial woes, the governor pledged to preserve the stateâs investment in the Monetary Award Program to Illinois college students in financial need.
Quinn cited statistics that indicate that the average college graduate earns 75 percent more than the average high school graduate. Meanwhile, he added, the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that most of the 30 fastest-growing jobs in the nation will require education beyond high school.
âAccess to higher education is fundamental to a studentâs earning potential and career path,â Quinn said. âScholarships for needy college students are an investment that Illinois canât afford to cut.â