I want you to imagine for a minute that your family is facing a monumental fiscal crisis. Bill collectors are hounding you, you're facing foreclosure on your home and your children's tuition is due. Just before the moment of reckoning, in the mail you receive an offer to loan you all the money you need to pay your bills, keep your house and pay your children's tuition. With few other options, you cautiously accept the offer. One year later, your family's income hasn't improved and the bills are back, plus the interest you owe on last year's loan. You find yourself facing an even worse financial circumstance and are given another offer to borrow to make it through another year.
This is the situation currently facing Illinois. We have a $13 billion deficit and our economy is among the worst in the nation, yet our Governor's only solution is more reckless borrowing. Governor Pat Quinn wants to borrow $5 billion and push off more than $6 billion in this year's unpaid bills to next year. To add to this pending disaster, Governor Quinn proposes a paltry $1.5 billion in spending reductions with cuts focused almost exclusively on education. This is just another desperate scare tactic to force the members of the General Assembly to raise the income tax so he won't have to make any cuts at all.
Admittedly, Governor Quinn inherited a bleak situation, but he has done nothing to make it better. Last year, we were told we faced the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, and the General Assembly approved borrowing $3.5 billion to fund operations and pushed off billions more in bills. In the year following our first loan, Governor Quinn and the legislature have failed to enact significant spending reductions. Instead, both crossed their fingers and hoped the economy would rebound, revenues would increase and major changes to the way Illinois operates would be averted.
Governor Quinn wants to take the option to borrow again to get through another year. Common sense dictates that borrowing on top of borrowing will eventually lead to bankruptcy and the cost of interest on multiple loans will create a cycle of debt that will become impossible to escape. Yet, supporters of the status quo in Springfield continue to claim that we've cut to the bone and falsely affirm that the only way out of our fiscal mess is through more revenue. What they fail to acknowledge is that our revenues match those from 2007, when our economy was humming along and the state was on relatively sound fiscal footing. Since then, spending has increased and it needs to be reigned in if we ever want our economy to lead the Midwest as it had for decades.
The General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn in less than two weeks. Governor Quinn's tax increase plans lay like a rotting corpse in the Capitol rotunda. You see, legislators facing an election want to get out of Springfield without having to make the tough choices of where to cut. It is an outrageous policy that will bankrupt Illinois and destroy our economy.
Borrowing requires a three-fifths majority vote in both chambers. While the Senate Democrats alone can approve the borrowing in the Senate, the House of Representatives requires at least one Republican vote to reach three-fifths. As of today, at least two Republican votes will be required because I cannot in good conscience vote for Governor Quinn's dangerous "borrow and delay" strategy.
I offer a simple alternative, in return for my support of more borrowing. I call on Governor Quinn to make $2 in cuts for every $1 borrowed. I concede we may need some short-term borrowing to help pay our backlog of bills caused by the first round of borrowing-and-delaying, but I will not support any borrowing without spending cuts. On numerous occasions, I have offered suggestions of big spending cuts. Governor Quinn has not entertained a single proposal. Instead he has continued to call for more revenue and irresponsible borrowing. My first cut would be the elimination of the $1 billion Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity whose usefulness expired when former-Governor Rod Blagojevich turned it into a pay-to-play cesspool.
Illinois' political structure is dominated by powerful legislative leaders and governors who cut deals and expect the rank and file to blindly follow orders. The failed results speak for themselves. We must put a stop to this outdated, destructive arrangement. I am calling on my colleagues, the rank and file members of the Illinois House of Representatives, to say no to Governor Quinn's "borrow and delay" strategy. By saying no, we can force a necessary systemic solution to our fiscal crisis. We must make the hard choices before we leave Springfield for the summer. The people deserve it and our future demands it.
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