GOP gov candidate announces Illinois finance plan

AP News
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Posted: Dec 09, 2009 9:58 AM

Republican candidate for governor Andy McKenna proposed dramatically cutting state spending to rescue Illinois' finances without an income tax increase.

Chicago businessman McKenna on Tuesday said the state should cut spending to 2006 levels, amounting to about a 20 percent drop.

That could mean big cuts to state government while only addressing about half of the budget deficit. He didn't offer specifics about the impact on services and programs.

"What we're saying to the people of Illinois is: We will not spend above receipts because that's irresponsible," said McKenna, one of seven GOP candidates in a crowded Feb. 2 primary field.

Spending levels likely would need to remain frozen there for three or four years so the state can dig out of "a real deep hole," said McKenna, former chairman of the Illinois Republican Party.

That means human services agencies that depend on state money also would have to live with less until the state could generate more funds. Extra money can be found through savings realized from proposed efficiencies like expanding Medicaid managed care and changing the state's pension system, McKenna said.

Daniel Schwick, assistant to the president of Lutheran Social Services of Illinois, said McKenna's plans sounds "unrealistic."

"It would literally mean throwing people out of supportive services they are currently receiving," said Schwick, whose agency offers services to families, children, seniors and people with disabilities throughout the state.

The threat of large cuts to social service agencies this year sparked outrage among providers and sent the governor and lawmakers scrambling to avoid them.

Both Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and his primary opponent, Comptroller Dan Hynes, have said an income tax increase is needed to get the state out of a financial hole.

Without enough support this summer from lawmakers for a tax increase, Quinn signed off on a budget that legislators cobbled together by borrowing money, leaving bills unpaid and making promises to cut more spending.

McKenna said some people, including Quinn, believe a tax increase is the state's only way out.

"There are people that believe that and I don't believe that," he said.

Quinn's budget office would not respond to a "hypothetical budget" question about whether it is feasible to roll back spending to 2006 levels.