THE BLOG
08/04/2010 01:17 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Pat Quinn, Bill Brady and a Ticking Sound on the Illinois Budget as Election Day Approaches

Governor Pat Quinn's gubernatorial campaign this week called on GOP opponent State Senator Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) to detail his plan for the Illinois budget, arguing that the campaign clock is ticking.

"Thus far, Sen. Brady has shown no understanding of what it takes to balance the budget," Quinn campaign manager Ben Nuckels said.

"What he has said would require massive cuts to our schools and police departments across the state. It would mean skyrocketing property taxes. And it still leaves an $8 billion dollar hole."

With just 12 weeks until Election Day, Brady has provided precious few details for his plan to address the $13 billion Illinois budget gap, according to Quinn's campaign and most informed political observers.

Even former GOP Governor Jim Edgar has called Brady's budget ideas "naive".

"While Governor Quinn has shown leadership by taking decisive action and making the difficult decisions to reduce the state's spending, Bill Brady hasn't even attempted to offer his own solutions," said Nuckels. "It shows that Brady either has no solutions or doesn't have the courage to submit his ideas for public scrutiny."

A message sent to the Brady campaign for a response to Quinn's blast was returned with silence.

However, Brady recently acknowledged--to his credit--that his 10% across the board budget cut--his principal budget policy proposal thus far--would indeed apply to the Illinois elementary and secondary education budget.

"Sure. It would apply to everything," said Brady at a press conference last week.

A 10% cut next year applied to this year's fiscal year 2011 local school budget would reduce state government education spending by $706 million.

And, as Chicago Sun-Times columnist and Capitol Fax publisher Rich Miller noted, Quinn attacked Brady last week on this 10% cut to education.

I know that there's going to be false prophets running around Illinois saying, 'We don't have to do anything, just stand still, cut the budget of state government for education by 10 percent.' Make sure that everybody knows what this fellow is talking about. He wants to cut the school budget in Illinois, the education budget, by 10 percent. How are you going to fund the schools?

Even though Quinn cut education by $241 million or only 3.2% this year, the governor himself had threatened to slice $1.3 billion or 18% from education earlier this year before the Illinois legislature refused to act on his 1% income tax surcharge for education.

"I don't know what to say about Mr. Quinn, because every time he opens his mouth, he says something different," said Brady.

It makes even my head dizzy.

Quinn's campaign noted that the governor has "faced... an unprecedented budget crisis and the nation's worst economy since the Great Depression" and has cut $3 billion from the Illinois budget in the last two years.

Despite these cuts, the Illinois budget deficit has grown from $9 billion to $13 billion on Quinn's watch and that state's unpaid bills totaled $4.7 billion as of June 30--a historic high, though the final amount will likely be closer to $6 billion. Moreover, Illinois vendors are waiting, on average, 153 days or longer to be paid.

In fairness to Quinn, he had backed various income tax increase schemes in the last 18 months to plug the deficit, a politically perilous course amidst a higher than national unemployment rate in Illinois and surly voters bleating for blood. But the legislature balked.

Undaunted by the glum Illinois budget conditions and the ghosts of income tax plans past, Quinn's team remains intent to press this line of attack against Brady, much the way the governor's primary opponent, Comptroller Dan Hynes, did against him.

"It is incomprehensible that a gubernatorial candidate would fail to address our state's budget challenge," Quinn's Communications Director Mica Matsoff added. "Illinois voters need a real budget solution, not a platitude that could fit on a cocktail napkin."

This is Quinn channeling Hynes.

Meanwhile, the Quinn campaign this week also announced the creation of a "Brady Budget Clock" on its Web site, QuinnforIllinois.com. The feature will track the number of days since Brady has been the Republican nominee for Governor, during which he has campaigned "without any coherent plan to fix our state budget."

Quinn's "Brady Budget Clock" may be ticking, but its ticking noise may be indistinguishable from the Illinois budget deficit bomb ticking simultaneously.

This is for sure: one of these will stop ticking.