WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Crunch Time for Illinois Lawmakers

May 13, 2012

Illinois lawmakers are heading into the home stretch of their 2012 session. But they still need to approve a budget before they can adjourn.

They've been working for months to try figuring out how  they can cut two of the state's biggest expenses:  pensions  and Medicaid.

Some lawmakers are not pleased with the pace.

"Well, why would you be concerned? We've got two and a half weeks left.  We've got all the time in the world to fix our problems here in the state of Illinois,” remarked Representative Joe Lyons (D-Chicago).

“None of us ever learned different from high school. Cramming at the end, procrastinating 'til the night before when we started studying  for our test the next day. It's a horrible way to run the  railroad. I've been down here 16 years, rarely has it been any different.”

Lyons predicted that when push comes to shove, lawmakers will get it done by the end of the month.

He said they have a head start. In a key vote last week, both chambers approved taking away state government retirees' free health insurance. But the outstanding pension and Medicaid issues are major.

“So many issues to deal with, so many big, big issues to deal with.  God only knows what will happen in the next two weeks,” said Lyons.

The entire spending plan is predicated on making cuts to Medicaid.  If it doesn't happen, lawmakers will need to go through the entire budget line-by-line to identify further cuts to public safety and education.

Thanks to Illinois Public Radio