WE ARE ILLINOIS
Plan is Good Start in Spending Cuts
By Herald Review Opinion Page Staff
Republicans in the Illinois General Assembly have finally unveiled a plan that addresses the state's key financial issue: spending.
The Republican plan calls for spending cuts of $6.7 billion, an amount that members say would allow the state to roll back the 66 percent income tax increase approved during the lame-duck session and clear up the massive backlog of unpaid bills within two years.
The plan is a bold one, but its political future is doubtful at best. Hopefully, it will serve as a starting point, however, for addressing the expense side of the state's budget crisis...
The GOP plan also would freeze state worker pay, including union workers. It would also drastically cut state assistance to education and local governments and combine the only two statewide offices held by Republicans: comptroller and treasurer.
Gov. Pat Quinn was less than enthusiastic about the plan, calling it "foolhardy." But Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said it was a good foundation on which to begin budget talks.
Moving any significant budget reductions through the General Assembly is difficult. Special interest groups are effective at lobbying for their funds and programs to be left alone, and the Democrats that control the legislature have not shown a desire to reduce the state's spending habits.
Cuts to local school districts and governments can be uncomfortable, but the process would be worth the time if it moves some governments to consider a change in the way they operate. One way of saving tax dollars is for local governments to consider more collaboration and consolidation. That issue will never be seriously discussed, however, unless the money spigot is reduced to a trickle.
Most of the funding cuts proposed by the Republicans, however, are aimed at state government. That's as it should be, since state government has responded to the economic times by spending more, not less, money. While families, businesses and local governments have cut back, our state officials have continued to spend money. The time for some serious cutting is long overdue.
Taxpayers, who are being asked to spend more of their dollars on government, also need relief. As has been stated in these pages before, the cost of government has outpaced the ability of taxpayers to fund government.
The GOP plan will undoubtedly be changed as it proceeds through the General Assembly. But it is a good starting point for what taxpayers have to hope are meaningful discussions about reducing state spending.
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