Lawmakers weigh in on Gov. Quinn Budget

By WEEK Producer

February 22, 2012 Updated Feb 23, 2012 at 11:18 AM CDT

Today was the day lawmakers had been waiting for since the State of the State last month. Gov. Pat Quinn laid out his budget proposal.

Tonight lawmakers react to the proposal which calls for prison closures, healthcare cutbacks for the poor and pension reform.

State Sen. Darin Lahood:
The bottom line is pensions and medicaid take up the biggest portion of our budget and there was nothing today that is going to reform that.

The governor said Illinois is paying $5.2 billion a year for the pension system. That's about 15 percent of the state's overall checking account, and triple what it was four years ago.

Gov. Quinn defended his plan, "We can do this in a way that passes constitutional muster, but everything has to be on the table."

He established a bi-partisan panel of lawmakers with an April 17 deadline to come up with reforms for the system.

Quinn also said he will talk with lawmakers to come with solutions to reform the state's Medicaid system, which helps nearly three million Illinoisans.

"We've already enacted $1.5 billion in medicaid reform, his administration hasn't implemented it, so it's about taking action" said State Representative David Leitch.

State Representative Don Moffitt said, "Some of the programs, the threshold lets in people with pretty significant incomes, so it could be looked into."

The governor said he wants to close or consolidate 59 state facilities, including two prisons and several mental health facilities.

State Representative talked about how it is difficult to be diplomatic, "We simply can't close facilities and put people out on the streets. There has to be some sort of plan. But, the reality is that you can't be everything to all people.

He announced a 9 percent budget cut for his office and asked other state departments to do the same. He also proposed increasing education spending.

State Representative Jehan Gordon said, "I don't think talking about any additional new money in education is acceptable."

"He says we can't cling to fantasies, but then he proposed spending more than we spent last year. We are in the mess because of over spending" said State Representative Mike Unes.

In the end expects the state will spend $33.9 billion dollars next year... $700 million more than last year... Leaving the state to carry over billions in unpaid bills.

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