As the General Assembly prepares to tackle the budget once and for all, Governor Pat Quinn is pointing the finger at everyone but himself. On Thursday, Quinn told reporters, "When the legislature wants to drift off and not focus on doing important things for the people, the governor has to call them back and make sure they do their duty." I did not shirk my duty to represent the people of the 63rd District. Rather, I have offered and continue to offer sincere spending cut suggestions. In fact, I am still the only member of the House of Representatives to file any amendments to the current budget bill. My suggestions include eliminating the $1 billion Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, eliminating the lieutenant governor's office, eliminating $1.2 billion dollars worth of member initiative pork projects, and collecting more than $1 billion in taxes and fees that are owed to Illinois. I also called on Quinn a week ago to bring us back to Springfield for a special session -- and he refused to, for political reasons.
Quinn has not entertained a single one of my proposals. From where I sit, it seems he is more interested in increasing the state's revenues and borrowing billions of dollars than seriously listening to members' ideas. This session break could have been a worthwhile chance for Quinn to genuinely consider potential spending cuts offered by my fellow legislators and me. But he chose not to. I call that a tragically wasted opportunity.
Instead, Quinn has hosted a series of private meetings with selected legislators. By offering to buy off small groups of legislators with sweetheart budget carve outs, Quinn is using dishonorable techniques to get his budget passed. These back room dealings reek of impropriety and weak leadership.
This is not the first time the Governor has pulled this stunt. Last year, when Quinn was desperate to pass the budget, he enticed each rank-and-file member with $1.5 million in capital project funds to spend as they pleased. I refused to accept the blood money. Bribery and decoy funding is no way to pass a budget, or lead our state, for that matter.
I will not be a part of this year's back-room dealings. Our state spending is a mess and we need to deal with it. By skipping this year's nearly $4 billion state worker pension payment or borrowing billions to make the pension payment, by increasing the cigarette tax by $1 a pack and increasing income taxes, we are simply postponing the inevitable. Instead of cowardly employing delay tactics, our lawmakers should be facing spending cuts head-on.
If this was a real democracy, legislators like me would be given the opportunity to do what we were elected to do: represent our constituents. I have not "drift[ed] off" during this session break, as Quinn would have you believe. On the contrary, I have been ready and eager to continue the battle to balance Illinois' budget. I will not take part in Quinn's secret budget buy-off strategy because I know we can do better. The solution is in our reach, but we need to work together to reach it.