The Republican candidate for Illinois governor appears to be backing away from an astonishing claim he made yesterday in the western part of the state.
Bill Brady told an audience in Quincy, Ill. that he would balance the state's devastated budget in his first year in office. The state's budget deficit, one of the worst in the nation, is currently around $13 billion.
"I will balance the state's budget in the first year," he said. "Let me say that again, because most people don't believe it. I will balance the state's budget in the first year, because I have a fiduciary obligation to the people of Illinois, through the Constitution, to do that."
Brady's budget plans include cutting state government spending by 10 percent, and lowering taxes to encourage business investment.
With the state's budget at around $54 billion, a 10 percent cut -- which could be crippling to state agencies that are already waiting on piles of unpaid bills from Springfield -- would amount to a savings of $5.4 billion. This is less than half of the state's budget shortfall, without taking into account revenues lost from tax cuts.
The budget has been a weak point for the Republican state senator, with former Republican Governor Jim Edgar calling his plan "naive." And his opponent, Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn, jumped on his latest remarks in a press release today:
Senator Brady yesterday made unmistakably clear what many have long known: he doesn't understand how our state budget works, but he'll say anything to woo voters on the campaign trail. ...
[J]ust as no magic beans can actually grow into a beanstalk that reaches the sky, no 10% cut of state spending can eliminate a $12.9 billion deficit. Even worse, it would require catastrophic cuts to our schools and police departments across the state. It would mean skyrocketing property taxes. And it would still leave an $8 billion hole.
When CapFax followed up with the Brady campaign, a spokesman scaled back the candidate's ambitious plan.
"Bill has said he'll have a plan in place to deal with the backlog of unpaid bills -- but it could take 2-3 years to pay them off," the spokesman reportedly said.
Still, it's unclear exactly how Brady's plan will balance the budget, even two or three years from now. In Quincy, he emphasized job-creating reforms, like workers-comp reform and energy-industry deregulation, as well as an end to government inefficiency, according to the Herald-Whig.
For instance, he plans to eliminate the State Board of Education, saving roughly $40 million.
But it'll take a lot of $40 millions to reach $8 billion -- 199 more of them, in fact. Where these will come from remains to be seen.