Thursday, June 25, 2009

Statement on Cuts From Representative Greg Harris

Representative Greg Harris today issued the following statement regarding the budget cuts:

Rep. Greg Harris - 13th District
Springfield Update - June 25, 2009

Budget Meltdown

Session this week began with encouraging signs that solutions (even temporary ones) for the State's financial crisis could be near. It didn't take long for the wheels to totally come off the wagon, and now we are in even a more uncertain situation. To recap, the House and Senate passed bills to sweep excess special funds and authorize refinancing of state debt (HB2400 and SB1433) to alleviate some of the revenue shortfall in the FY10 budget. This would have allowed just under $1 billion in new funds to be applied to SB1197 which funds all the State's distributive grants (e.g. human services, MAP, etc.)

This week the House considered SB415 which would have authorized Pension Obligation Notes and allowed asset smoothing to be used as an accounting tool by the various pension funds. The immediate effect for FY10 is that it would have allowed for full funding of the FY10 pension payment (as opposed to the partial payment in the Governor's introduced budget) and freed up approximately $2.2 billion for the FY10 operating budget.

The problems began when Governor Quinn came to the House Democratic caucus to talk about the budget scenario and his proposed budget plans. It soon became obvious that the Governor's staff did not have written materials with details of his proposals so we could analyze the impact of these funds on the deficit, but also that the Governor's budget staff estimates and the legislative budget staff estimates did not jive, nor did the Governor have a definitive plan that explained his plans for allocating the additional $3.2 billion dollars that members could review.

In addition, as I am sure you may have seen in the media, estimates of the overall budget deficit have fluctuated dramatically, as has the Governor's announced plans for layoffs, furlough days and human service cuts. All of this fed into an air of uncertainty about the fiscal position of the State, at a time where certainty (or at least a common understanding of conditions) is essential for going forward to construct effective budget solutions.

In no way do I mean to imply that there is any kind of intentional chicanery or fudging going on as numbers fluctuate. However, as legislators we have repeatedly asked for detailed budgetary analyses and documentation of assumptions used to come to certain projections so that we can make informed decisions about these incredibly important and complex financial situations. In any budget there are many assumptions made. (Such as assumptions about revenue growth, market timing, accrual of expenses, etc.) Whether we agree or disagree with the assumptions, we need to know what they are before we can decide if we can agree with the conclusions they support and then act accordingly.

The fact that not only do the Governor's conclusions continue to shift, we are not able to assess the assumptions that have led him to those conclusions.

Those of us who are willing to support a tax increase, especially, want to be sure that any increase be only the amount absolutely necessary to maintain the viability of our human service safety net, and that prior to requesting new revenues every budget has been tightly managed, cuts have been made to "tighten our belt", and that revenues are being directed solely to those programs where the human need is the greatest.

Right now, amidst this uncertainty, I and many others do not have that comfort. Over the next several days the Governor's staff has committed to providing detailed documentation outlining their proposed budget and all its components, along with assumptions used in arriving at those figures. Our caucus partisan staff will be reviewing their numbers as well.

Hopefully when we return to Springfield Monday we will have sufficient information to make informed decisions. If we do not have enough accurate information to make the best decisions possible, I hope that the Governor will consider using available revenue to continue to operate in the new fiscal year at FY09 levels until a real and comprehensive solution can be passed.

Find this and every update from Rep. Harris at

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