Democrat budget plan could hamper Quinn on campaign trail

2014-05-28T20:21:00Z 2014-05-29T00:09:03Z Democrat budget plan could hamper Quinn on campaign trailKurt Erickson Lee Springfield Bureau nwitimes.com
May 28, 2014 8:21 pm  • 

SPRINGFIELD | In cobbling together an austere budget plan, Democrats are doing their own governor few favors when it comes to his re-election effort.

With the Senate set to take up a package of spending bills this week before leaving town for the summer, it appears as if Gov. Pat Quinn will be left holding a $35.7 billion budget blueprint that, as one top Senate aide said, is held together by "baling wire and Band-aids."

Along with concerns that the budget could lead to prison closures and other fiscal eruptions, the plan contains none of the governor's signature proposals.

Topping the list is inaction on the temporary income tax increase. In his March budget speech, Quinn called on lawmakers to make permanent the 2011 increase, rather than allowing it to roll back from 5 percent to 3.75 percent on Jan. 1.

Election-minded Democrats in the House chose to ignore him, setting up a scenario where the state could face a loss of $1.6 billion midway through the state's fiscal year.

Without that cash, lawmakers also had to jettison Quinn's call for homeowners to receive a $500 check as part of an election year property tax relief package.

They also had to forgo increasing the amount of money set aside for college tuition assistance for low-income students.

And, after working to lower the pile of unpaid bills to $4.1 billion, the budget plan threatens to reverse that trend by extending the payment period for the state to pay vendors.

"It's pretty clear the budget is incomplete," said his chief spokeswoman, Brooke Anderson.

Rather than giving Quinn something to crow about as he clashes with Republican businessman Bruce Rauner heading toward the November election, the governor will be left trying to navigate his way through a minefield of potential budgetary disasters.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle said the budget plan could hamper Quinn.

"His nature is that he's a caretaker. He wants to take care of everyone. His make-up is that he wants more so that he can do more for people," said state Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline. "I think this budget hamstrings him."

"It's a far cry from what the governor was hoping for," said state Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington. "Quite frankly, the budget passed by his own party is probably going to muffle some of his message and make it difficult on the campaign trail."

On Wednesday, Quinn's campaign team sought to turn the focus toward Rauner, who has been silent on his own budget plans, as well as the current budget plan moving through the Legislature.

"Although he's been running for governor for more than a year and spent more than seven million dollars on his own campaign, Rauner has refused to share his budget plan with the public. Instead, he's worked to mislead voters into thinking he is not the out-of-touch billionaire he is by wearing an $18 watch and Carhartt jacket," campaign spokeswoman Izabela Miltko said.

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