Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Gov. Quinn and the Four Tops: First the reforms and spending cuts, then there might be state revenue increases.

Gov. Pat Quinn and the four tops, i.e., the legislative leaders, met yesterday afternoon for three hours and fifteen minutes in the Governor’s conference room adjoining his office on the 16th Floor of the Thompson Center in the Chicago Loop. The topics discussed? Spending cuts, pension reform, Medicaid reform, revenue increases, job creation and perhaps general budget process reform. Each of the participants followed up by giving his or her perspective and answering questions from the media assembled in the lounge area on the 16th Floor. That whole post meeting process went on for about a half hour.

Republican State House Leader Tom Cross, speaking to the media first purportedly because he had to get to his son’s baseball game, spoke of moving forward with job creation, a capital budget, sunshine legislation and the need to make government and the budget process more efficient. Leader Cross spoke about “Those of us who are hesitant in this economy to talk about income tax increases.” Cross also emphasized that the Governor does have enough of a budget to get through six months, so he could keep going without trimming budgets, if he wanted to.

Republican Senate Leader Radogno made a similar point, arguing “we can spare significant cuts to some of the Human Service areas,” because the Governor and the four tops are now reviewing the whole budget, not just 10%, as Gov. Quinn had threatened to do earlier in this process, for spending cuts. And Quinn, apparently trying to encourage “collaboration,” cheered Radogno on, yelling out “well said.” Senator Radogno said she was encouraged that “there does seem to be a willingness to look at real reform,” but “we need to act on those ideas before we have any discourse about revenues.”

The Governor made clear he would move ahead with the pension and Medicaid reform that Radogno and Cross are promoting. Yet, there are inconsistencies between the Republican and the Democrat post-game reports, as Gov. Quinn will have Human Service agencies send out letters soon-- advising groups that receive and make use of state funds-- of massive spending cuts, notwithstanding Quinn’s supportive comments, above, to Radogno. Further, Cross is skeptical that Quinn’s attempt to complete this process by July 1, 2009 is achievable.
Jeff Berkowitz: Tom, did you and Leader Radogno identify some specific spending cuts that you would like to see?

Tom Cross: Jeff, we’re going through a whole list of cuts, all four caucuses and the Governor’s offices, on what we think we can trim back—trim and pare back government, and I will say, to be fair, both the Democrats and Republicans and the Governor’s office said they thought this was a fair exercise to participate in and I think all four caucuses thought—

Jack Conaty: Do you still believe July 1, [2009] is an aggressive date for getting this all settled?

House Republican Leader Tom Cross: I think July 1 is a very aggressive date for getting this done…again, you can’t expect some of these reform ideas to happen in a couple of days or a couple of weeks.
Tom Cross: I think real reform takes some time…when you make some real changes. I don’t think you can say to Illinois voters we’re going to run through this- just raise taxes without that fundamental change—and we’re going to insist on that [change].

Jeff Berkowitz: Are you meeting again next week?

Tom Cross: I think so.
Senate President Cullerton: …”We have to cut [spending] before we increase any taxes… But…it is inevitable…we eventually are going to have to have some new revenues to help avoid the Draconian cuts that the Governor was talking about…”

Speaker Mike Madigan: I think it was a very good meeting. I’ll be at the next meeting and I’m anxious to be fully cooperative with all of the proposals which are on the table- such as pension reform and Medicaid reform. Thank you very much.
[This report of yesterday’s meeting will be continued by Berkowitz in a post later today, with an emphasis on the second half of the post game comments, which are not included above].