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Media Watch: Gov's FY 11 numbers unreliable for building a balanced budget.

cullerton-DSC_4176-031511-75x75Senate President John Cullerton today responded to the Chicago Tribune’s opinion editorial published on Monday regarding the difficult budget decisions that are being considered in Springfield

It’s great to see the Chicago Tribune editorial board exhibit such confidence in Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration, basing an entire editorial argument around the vaunted number-crunching acumen of the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget.

I, however, do not share the same sense of reliance that the Tribune and Senate Republicans have in the administration’s Fiscal Year 2011 budget numbers.

Here’s why.

Two very wise people recently told me something about the governor’s budget office and the FY 11 numbers.

“But, as a practical matter, remember that the FY 11 budget was a lump-sum budget and, by GOMB’s own admission, it significantly understated what the Governor is actually spending.”

Those fiscal soothsayers were Republican state Senators Matt Murphy and Pamela Althoff. They were explaining to Senate Democrats why the Republicans were using the Governor’s latest budget proposal rather than the spending line items from the FY 11 budget.

Closer inspection of the governor’s FY 11 budget bears out the Republican claims that spending is being kept at artificially low levels.

Look no further than the cost of the state’s group health insurance plan. Quinn’s budget office listed the FY 11 costs at $695.8 million.

That’s interesting because in the proposed budget the costs soar to nearly $1.44 billion even though there’s no increased eligibility, no state hiring spree, nothing to explain the increase.

The truth of the matter is the financial liabilities of the program have been understated -- I believe “fudged” is the official budgeting term -- in order to make the budget appear balanced.

Start adding in those real costs and you’ll quickly find the FY 11 budget’s real spending costs exceed the budget balancing plan we are attempting to approve in the Senate.

Republicans and Democrats, even Democrats and Democrats, can disagree on the budget, its priorities and where it should be cut. But it's time we had an honest debate with real numbers.

The numbers for our next budget may not look good, but they are real.

No hiding costs. No magic beans. No pixie dust.

Senator Gary Forby


59th District

Years served:
2001-2003 (House); 2003 - Present (Senate)

Committee assignments: Energy and Public Utilities; Labor (Chairperson); Licensed Activities and Pensions; Committee of the Whole.

Biography: Born January 4, 1945, in Anna, Illinois. Full-time state legislator; former farmer and businessman; past chairman, Franklin County Board; former member, Franklin - Williamson Human Services Board; current member, Southern Illinois Workforce Man-Tra-Con Board, Operating Engineers and Laborers' International unions.