EDITORIAL - Budget cuts should not hit most vulnerable
What is a governor to do when faced with the prospect of not having a budget large enough to pay the state’s bills?
In Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s case, the choice is to lay off close to 2,000 state workers and shut down seven state facilities that house prisoners and the mentally ill.
These tough decisions on Quinn’s plate stem back from May when the state legislature passed a reduced budget for the 2012 fiscal year.
While the proposed layoffs and facility closures are estimated to save the state $54.8 million, Quinn still faces a difference of $183 million between what he claims the state needs and the budget that was passed.
It’s difficult to imagine that Illinois is still having trouble balancing its budget — especially after the across-the-board tax increases that everyone across the state was saddled with in January.
Even though Quinn can decry the fact that he has no choice but to make these cuts since the state lawmakers passed a budget that is too small for the state’s needs, his signature is on the budget, which shows the decrease in spending cannot be so draconian since he gave it final approval.
However, the most telling part of the budget drama from Springfield is that in the midst of an economic recession, Quinn would rather lay off workers and close important state facilities than face some of the facts about the state’s budget.
Closing seven state facilities, including prisons and juvenile detention centers, is surely not the answer, especially considering they will have to be transferred somewhere, and the state’s prisons are already overcrowded.
And what about the homes for the mentally ill? No one truly knows what will happen to those that rely on those homes once they close their doors for good.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and these are truly desperate times for the state, but Quinn needs to look elsewhere for budget cuts.
He could start by looking at the fact that Illinois state employee’s pay is more than almost every other state in the union. If he was truly feeling bold, he could tackle the issue of the state’s liability and litigation system, which ranks as one of the worst in the country.
No one envies Quinn’s job in finding budget cuts, but many covet the kind of policies that will bring Illinois to the top once again.