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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) – You didn’t have to be a Democrat to like Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget speech Wednesday, and you didn’t have to be a Republican to hate it.
Top Democrats praised the governor for laying out a strong message about the need for spending cuts, pension reform and Medicaid reform, while top Republicans said the governor’s speech showed a lack of leadership for not detailing how to achieve those goals.
But Quinn also had his critics in some Democratic lawmakers and supporters from the other side of the aisle after presenting a budget plan he said “contains truths that may not be what you want to hear.”
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“We know it’s bad; he doesn’t have to tell us that,” said State Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg), upset that he learned only Tuesday afternoon of Quinn’s plans to close the supermax prison at Tamms. Phelps says he thinks it’s a bluff: “I think none of it’s going to happen,” he said. “Hopefully, I’m right on that.”
A Southern Illinois Republican agrees. “I don’t believe you save money when you close a facility like Tamms that’s brand new,” said State Rep. Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro), “especially when you have gotten rid of the death penalty in the state of Illinois. (Tamms) is actually one of the controlling factors that we have with our worst, hardened criminals.”
Tamms was just of dozens of state facilities the governor targeted for foreclosure, including mental health centers, halfway houses, Human Services sites, and others.
“Money doesn’t grow on trees, and he finally seems to have gotten that point,” said State Rep. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet), contrasting Wednesday’s budget speech with Quinn’s State of the State message earlier in the month.
“Three weeks ago, he was talking about having bullet trains and no school buses … with $500 million in increased spending. This is a much more sober, somber speech,” Rose said.
State Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington), who lost to Quinn in the 2010 election for governor, showed no pretense of being charitable.
“Frankly, a junior in high school could have given this speech,” he said.
House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) said the governor didn’t lay out many specifics, instead opting to defer pension and Medicaid restructuring to work groups.
“He’s the governor. He’s the leader,” Cross says. “Are you for having employees pay a little more? Are you for cost shifting? Are you for addressing a [cost of living adjustment] issue? He says they’re all on the table but what does he want? This is not new stuff.”
The governor outlined a lot of cuts in his budget address, but also proposed new spending in early childhood education and beefing up the Monetary Award Program (MAP) that provides state grants to needy college students.
Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) said, while these are noble goals, there’s no way Republicans will vote to approve the spending increases.
“We cannot increase spending. Period, the end,” she said. “Those things ought to be off the table. We need to focus on the big issues at hand. Once those are solved, we can look at other things that need to be done within state government.”
Top Democrats, predictably, had the opposite view. Both House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) and Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) say the governor laid out a strong message with the underlying theme that serious cuts and reforms must happen this year.
“I think he gave a good speech,” says Madigan. “He delivered a good, tough message. These are tough times and it’s going to require tough leadership.”