Suburban officials rip Quinn borrowing plan
SPRINGFIELD -- Suburban lawmakers and mayors Friday ripped Gov. Pat Quinn's plan to take tax money away from communities unless lawmakers let him borrow cash to pay state bills, with one senator calling the tactic "blackmail."
"He is trying to basically blackmail mayors ... by saying 'Hey, I'm going to withhold your money if you don't beat up your local legislator to go along with my latest borrowing scheme," said Sen. Ron Sandack, a Downers Grove Republican.
A proposal from Quinn would take $100 million from suburbs' and other Illinois towns' share of state taxes unless lawmakers borrow $4.5 billion. They've been unwilling to do so in recent months.
Quinn wants the money to pay down the state's billions of dollars in unpaid bills.
"We continue to work with members of the General Assembly to come up with solutions to the state's budget challenges and this is one of a myriad options put forth to help stabilize the budget," said Quinn budget spokeswoman Kelly Kraft said.
Quinn got some support from his fellow Democrats. Sen. Mike Noland, an Elgin Democrat, said cuts to the state budget are in the works, but that some borrowing might be necessary if it's only used to pay down bills.
"We're very serious about balancing the budget," Noland said. "There will be cuts everywhere."
That could include, Noland said, to local governments. He knocked Republicans for not having filed budget proposals as legislation.
"They're just kind of sitting on the sidelines, waiting," he said.
One of those proposals pitched by Senate Republicans weeks ago was a $300 million cut from what communities get from the state -- similar to what Quinn is proposing if he doesn't get borrowing support.
It was presented as part of a large menu of options, and GOP senators say not all of them support each of the options.
In fact, their own proposal didn't stop some Republican senators from loudly criticizing Quinn's plan.
"It is unconscionable to say that we're not going to pay units of local government their money," said Sen. Kirk Dillard, a Hinsdale Republican. "He wants to punish local governments who in most cases have made budget cuts that Pat Quinn could only dream of."
Ever since the GOP pitched the idea, it's sparked furious opposition from local mayors. Mundelein Mayor Kenneth Kessler, for example, sent out a news release earlier this week blasting the idea even before Quinn's plan went public.
Mayors, who likely would have to trim their budgets if Quinn gets his way, protested, saying they've already cut deeply.
"We've reacted and responded to the recession by freezing jobs," said Schaumburg Mayor Al Larson.
Kraft said she hopes lawmakers consider it next week, when both the House and Senate are scheduled to be in Springfield.
Lawmakers are already working on their budget plans in a manner that some observers have said are the most bipartisan spending negotiations in years.
Will Quinn's plans change that?
"I think actions like this sour the atmosphere, very definitely," said Rep. David Harris, an Arlington Heights Republican.