Sat in on the lunch talk by State Rep. Mike Bost and State Senator Dave Luechtefeld put on by the Chamber of Commerce yesterday. It was billed as a look back at the past legislative session but the two spent very little time talking about that, instead spending the hour discussion Illinois' financial problems and what's going to have to happen done to fix them. The stat's about $130 billion in debt, second, I believe, only to California. Bost and Luechtefeld put a lot of the blaime at the feet of ex Gov. Blagoyovich and House Speaker Mike Madigan, Gov. Blago because he enacted a number of programs that, while they were certainly beneficial to Illinois residents, were not paid for and with no plan for how to pay for them and Madigan because nothing in the past 30 years has been passed by the state legislature without his approval. Madigan is directly responsible for about 3000 state employees having their jobs.
Two things Bost suggested would help start digging Illinois out of its hole are moving Medicaid to a manage care program like that in Iowa, whihc he says would save the state about $3 billion a year. The second thing is enacting PAYGO, meaning a legislator proposing a new program must also include the source of the funding in the bill.
Luechtefeld followed up on the theme, telling of an encounter with Jim Edgar's budget chief, Steve Schorr(sp?), and Schorr's response when Luechtefeld asked him about the budget. Schorr responded that there was no short term fix and five things needed to happen to get the budget back into balance:
1. cannot start or enlarge any programs for the next several years.
2. hope the economy comes back.
3. cut some programs, especially from the Blago years.
4. make the state more business friendly
5. after the others are done, look for new revenue streams
Neither man sees much stomach in the state legislature for the painful cuts needed to fix things because any program cut has supporters who will come out and lobby to defend it. For example, witness the number of college students that came out when the legislature considered cutting MAP grants. The legislature quickly backpedaled on the proposed cuts and I'd expect a similar response and result with any other proposed cuts, especially given the likelihood the same people will return to office in the legislature after the November elections.