Gov. Quinn laid out his budget plans for Fiscal Year 2012 last Wednesday to mixed reviews.
The $35.4 billion in general revenue funds expenditure, $1.7 billion dollars higher than last year, supports no new programs, provides additional headcount for agencies including the Departments of Revenue and Corrections, and provides for the state’s increased payments for health insurance and pension costs.
While public universities were “level-funded” in the Governor’s Proposed Budget for FY2012, an additional $25 million was recommended to enhance the Monetary Assistance Program (MAP) for Illinois’ neediest college students. The governor outlined priorities including job creation, global competitiveness, ongoing capital investment and additional pension/budget reforms.
A major component of the Quinn budget plan is $8.75 billion in state borrowing to pay current obligations.
One proposal, Senate Bill 3, would use a portion of the revenue from the state income tax increase to pay back borrowed funds over a 14-year period. Much debate is expected over the borrowing issue, as Republicans are generally united in opposition to this proposal without additional cuts in operations.
State Treasurer Dan Rutherford has conceded that a short-term restructuring of existing debt is necessary to gain some credibility with vendors, and to reduce interest costs. However, the state treasurer suggests a much shorter payback period.
This payback period will be a heavily debated issue among legislators along with disagreement over cuts to social service and state agencies, as well as education, along with attempts to continue reforms in state employee pensions and benefits.
All four leaders of the legislative caucuses have expressed varying degrees of reservations to the budget proposals. Any borrowing package would require a three-fifths majority, meaning some bipartisan support would be necessary for passage. However, given the Democratic member concerns, a variety of alternative plans are expected to be presented.
The legislative calendar is scheduled to run until the end of May. If past history prevails, flowers will be blooming well before a final compromise is crafted.
The House of Representatives returns to Springfield this week while the Illinois State Senate will return the week of Feb. 28.
The Voices section of NIU Today features opinions and perspectives from across campus. Ken Zehnder is director of state and local relations for NIU.