Reporting Derrick Blakley
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PARK RIDGE, Ill. (CBS) – Gov. Quinn attended a traditional Memorial Day parade before heading down to Springfield to grapple with the state’s budget problems.
The parade and the politics made for an interesting mix in Park Ridge, CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley reports.
It’s down to the wire once again in the state capital, where lawmakers must approve about $1 billion more in cuts or revenues by Thursday to balance the budget.
But there’s serious opposition to deep Medicaid cuts, already passed, even in prosperous Park Ridge.
During Monday’s parade, there were marching bands, stirring songs and flag-waving.
The governor defended $1.6 billion in Medicaid cuts, while looking to save even more.
“If you don’t reform the Medicaid system, it won’t be here for anyone, for 3 million people, so it’s important to take these hard steps now to save the system from collapse,” Quinn told reporters.
The local state senator agrees.
“It was a very difficult decision, a challenging decision. But if we didn’t address the challenges we had in Medicaid, in five years we would have had $22 billion worth of bills — 22 billion!” Sen. Dan Kotowski said.
But to others here, the cuts just don’t make sense. Pharmacist Jerry Colletti frowns on taking away a state drug program for seniors. Many of his customers depend on it, he said.
“We need to protect the ones we love, and watch out for them, so I would say don’t cut the Medicaid,” resident Michelle Richter said.
And yet, to balance the budget, something’s got to go.
“Rather than raise taxes, I’d rather see spending cut. A lot of these extra programs are simply not necessary,” resident Scott Bianchi said.
And the cuts may keep on coming. Lawmakers are considering deep cuts in pensions for state workers, and well as a $1-a-pack cigarette tax hike to balance the books.
The clock is ticking. It’s all got to get done within 48 hours.
If it doesn’t, Illinois’ bond rating may be cut, which would raise borrowing costs and hit taxpayers yet again.