(Springfield, IL) — March 4, 2011. The state’s next budget could be much smaller than Governor Pat Quinn outlined last month. Or it could be the same. Or larger.
Newly fiscally conservative Democrats in the Illinois House unveiled numbers Thursday they say will limit state spending. Lawmakers said they will base the next state budget on $33.2 billion in state revenue.
As state State Rep. John Bradley (D-Marion) put it, that is all the money the state will have next year. And that is all of the money that the state should spend.
These figures “fairly reflect the revenues of the state of Illinois as anticipated based upon, not possibilities of law, but existing law and existing revenue sources at this time,” said Bradley.
The phrase “at this time” is why the House price tag is lower than projections from Quinn and the legislative Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability. COGFA’s best-guess number is a little more than $34.8 billion coming into the state for the next fiscal year.
Quinn’s budget office came up with a $33.9 billion number. The differences stem from varied estimates as to how much Illinois will get from the new personal and corporate income tax increase passed in January. COGFA is guessing $2.1 billion. Quinn’s budget office is guessing $1.8 billion.
The governor’s spending plan comes with a price tag of more than $35 billion.
State Rep. Mark Beaubien (R-Wauconda) said the discussion on spending will come next.
“This is the first time we’re starting out with a logical approach — look at revenue first then back into spending,” Beaubien said. “For 14 years we’ve been spending and tried to back into revenue.”
The House now begins a series of hearings on how best to spend the $33.2 billion. But lawmakers may not want to get too attached to that number.
Senators, particularly the Democrats who control the upper chamber, are calling the House price tag a starting point.
State Senator Donne E. Trotter (D-Chicago) is quick to say both chambers will have input on the budget, and both sides will have to agree on a dollar figure.
“We have to take a look at, and have (the House) explain to us where they got that number,” he said. “It may be a real number, we don’t know. But that is not the plan we’re looking at.”
Trotter doesn’t have a number of his own, but said senators may know more next month when income taxes start coming into the state.
Republican senators are even less willing to believe the budget will be no more than $33.2 billion. State Senator Matt Murphy (R-Palatine) said he has a hard time believing that Democrats will leave close to a billion dollars on the table.
“They’re going to have to walk the walk before people believe that fiscal responsibility has arrived in Springfield,” Murphy said.
Bradley insists the House is serious about holding the line on spending. He does not, however, have an answer for whether he expects the Senate to be as serious.
“We’re one chamber, it’s bicameral, so we’ll see,” he said. “We’re going to proceed in the House, and hopefully everyone will have the same spirit of working together and compromise.”
Quinn’s budget office did not return calls and e-mails seeking comment. Bradley said the budget-making process will begin soon. Lawmakers are supposed to have a final spending plan by the end of May.