Senate GOP: While more of the same old talk, Pritzker budget address offers 'a starting point'
While remaining hopeful and appreciative of his call for bipartisanship, Illinois Republican senators called Gov. J.B. Pritzker's budget announcement more of the same after he addressed Senate and House members on Wednesday.
Sen. Dan McConchie (R-Lake Zurich) said he liked the fact that it was balanced, but there were still a lot of gimmicks in Pritzker's budget.
"The fact that we’re going to kick pension payments down the road is very concerning," McConchie said. "We’re going to continue to delay the unfunded payment, which will create additional payments for our children. There were a lot of tax increases and insufficient cuts."
McConchie said Pritzker had previously indicated a willingness to work together with Republicans, but that he did not do that during the discussion of the minimum wage law.
"We have a lot of work to do now and we had to have a starting place," McConchie conceded.
Sen. Jim Oberweis (R-North Aurora) said Pritzker's budget has almost $1 million in additional spending and additional taxes.
"At the same time, it's deferring pension payments," Oberweis said. "To fill the budget gap he’s proposing, we can’t be increasing spending—we need to be cutting."
Sen. Don DeWitte (R-West Dundee) said he appreciated the comment Pritzker made on bold optimism.
"I hope it turns into bold compromise and bipartisanship," DeWitte said. "We still have a lot of work to do, but this is a good starting place to start this process and start making the right decisions for Illinois."
DeWitte said he was concerned with tax-increase proposals.
"I have contended all along our problem is not a revenue problem, it's a spending problem," DeWitte said. "I intend to keep an open mind moving forward. This will not be a quick fix."
Sen. Jason Plummer (R-Vandalia) said the budget proposal allows for hope, if it proves to be more than just talk.
"He talked a lot about bipartisanship," Plummer said. "Hopefully as we move forward that conversation continues. We all need to be rowing in the same direction. I think the idea of raising taxes just pushes people to Missouri and Indiana, and that’s a real problem."
Sen. Dave Syverson (R-Rockford) said the budget is similar to what they have seen in the past with increased taxes, increased spending and diverting pensions.
Sen. Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg) said that while he understood Pritzker wanted to hit the ground running, he has concerns.
"I'm optimistic and I'm encouraged (because of his talk of) bipartisanship," Fowler said. "But, I'm concerned with the minimum wage and I'm concerned about the university system. We have so much opportunity and great momentum and I don’t want to see that stand still."
Sen. Neil Anderson (R-Moline) also allowed for cautious optimism.
"There were things I agree with—prioritizing spending for K-12, higher education, that’s a great thing. What concerns me (is that) he didn’t offer a whole lot of solutions."
Sen. Dale Righter (R-Mattoon) saw two speeches in one.
"One part laid out issues, but the other part is what's gotten us here in the first place," Righter said. "It's not a path to prosperity. My hope is that he will listen to suggestions."
Sen. Jil Tracy (R-Quincy) said she wants to find common ground.
"I’m about jobs and making the economy grow," Tracy said. "I'm concerned about overspending. That's troublesome. I’m open to review and analyze not making the full pension payment. Time will tell."
Tracy said certainly that the legislature wants to appropriate and fund vital services.
"I'm disappointed he didn’t mention the Quincy Veterans Home," Tracy said. "That's very important to me."
Sen. Paul Schimpf (R-Murphysboro) said he appreciated the call for bipartisanship but also has concerns.
"He didn’t really talk about spending cuts," Schimpf said. "We have to try to restrain spending. We’re making the same mistakes. (But) his speech really laid out philosophical properties between the two parties."
Sen. Steve McClure (R-Jacksonville) also found some hopeful points in the budget and some less so.
"There are things about it that I like and don’t like," McClure said. "The big issue is kicking the pension can down the road. To just continually put us in worse fiscal shape by kicking it down the road, I'm not a fan of that."