Progress? Illinois budget numbers are
finally being discussed
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[July 10, 2007]
As the state's
budget stalemate continues, there were small signs of progress as
budget negotiators attempted, for the first time since the overtime
session began, to nail down actual numbers.
Unfortunately, the figures tell a
troubling story: Commitments that have accumulated during the first
four years of the Blagojevich administration are now coming due, and
there isn't enough money to pay for all of them.
Senate Republicans have consistently warned Gov. Blagojevich that
one-time revenues, fund diversions and other temporary budget
gimmicks cannot fund permanent program expansions.
Medicaid and other public assistance programs, fueled by major
expansions during the past four years, are on a collision course
with the state's obligation to fund education -- including funding
for teacher retirement accounts.
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After the governor diverted more than
$2 billion from pension accounts in 2005, Republicans warned that
rising expenditures would outpace available dollars.
Those predictions are now coming true. The gimmicks have run out
and -- like the consumer who finances his luxury lifestyle through
charge cards and negative equity loans -- the governor's programs
now cost more than the state is taking in.
In fact, the gap is about $874 million according to one analysis
-- and that's without any increase for state schools and without the
governor's universal health care program. This massive gap exists
despite a billion dollars in new revenues for next year.
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