The candidates for Illinois House District 48 agree on some steps to reduce the state's $13 billion debt, but Medicaid is a sticking point.
Republican incumbent Michael Connelly of Lisle, an attorney, said achieving a balanced budget will require a multiyear restructuring of Medicaid and pensions for state employees, freezing spending and conducting a forensic audit on expenditures.
"I don't think you can (balance) without doing all those things," he said. "At some point our credit rating will be the lowest it can be and we need to start sending messages to the credit markets that we understand we are a deadbeat state."
Connelly points to Medicaid, which was expanded by executive order under former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, and said spending for the program should be reduced. He said he supports serving "the poorest of the poor," but feels an audit would help Medicaid operate more efficiently.
"Right now you have one in five Illinois residents on Medicaid (and) those numbers are staggering and unsustainable," said Connelly. "It's the highest growing percentage of our budget. If you took requirements today and reverted them back to 2002, you'd save about $4 billion."
Democratic challenger Barbara Green, a retired teacher from Lisle, agrees an audit is needed to identify wasteful spending. But she said she can't predict which programs need cutting.
"At this point, I don't know because I don't know what's actually being funded that is redundant," Green said.
Green added that she is upset by recent cuts to education and human services due to the state budget shortfall. She said she opposes a reduction in Medicaid funding.
"I am hoping Mr. Obama's health care plan will make things better in that area somehow," Green said. "People who are on Medicaid are there by and large because they need it, and I don't think the budget should be balanced on their backs."
Both candidates oppose tax increases. They also said the budgeting process must be overhauled, giving legislators more time before approving all the expenditures. Green advocates for at least one month between the budget presentation and its approval.
Connelly added that the Illinois House could take a cue from the DuPage County Board.
"The county board puts out its budget in the spring and tours all summer with it," he said. "We have less than a day to review a $60 billion budget and then vote on it."
District 48 represents portions of Naperville, Lisle, Wheaton, Woodridge and Bolingbrook.