Dillard, Nybo react to governor’s budget
By Chuck Fieldman firstname.lastname@example.org February 27, 2012 4:28PM
Updated: April 2, 2012 8:34AM
The two candidates running in the March 20 Republican primary for state senator in the newly-drawn 24th Senate District both are giving some kudos to Gov. Pat Quinn for putting a focus on doing something about pension reform and Medicaid during his Feb. 22 budget address.
But incumbent Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale and challenger Chris Nybo of Elmhurst, the state representative in the 41st House District, have very different takes on why they are best-suited to help in the process of the pension and Medicaid problems.
Dillard said his experience as chief of staff for then-Gov. Jim Edgar in helping to deal with a $1 billion budget deficit would be helpful in helping to fix the current budget crisis.
Nybo said the pension and Medicaid problems are not new and that anyone who has been in the state Senate for as long as Dillard doesn’t deserve to go back there.
“These are major issues that should have been seen coming a mile away, and the general assemblies have failed over the past 20 years to do anything about them,” Nybo said.
Dillard said he is looking forward to working with the governor on getting a handle on these issues.
“I’m glad the governor has after four years in office finally focused on pension reform and our state’s largest expense, Medicaid,” Dillard said.
He said Illinois cannot continue to blindly add people to the list of those receiving Medicaid benefits.
“Gov. Quinn wants to add 133,000 people, which is essentially the population of Joliet, to the Medicaid rolls,” Dillard said. “We must constantly verify income and residency; we should be doing that every six months. We cannot be all things to all people, and we have to scale back. We can’t have people making $85,000 a year getting welfare. We spend more on welfare in this state, $15 billion a year, than we do on education.”
Nybo said some of the enormous Medicaid expenses could be reduced if reforms that have been passed would be implemented. Included are a law requiring income and residency verification for Medicaid, and authorizing the Department of Health Care and Family Services to develop and implement an Internet-based transparency program that would be helpful in tracking provider fraud and improve service.
As for pension reform, Dillard said changes must be made.
“We have to sit down with current employees and see what we can come up with,” he said. “Unfunded pensions are a huge problem, and it’s going to take everyone sitting down to get a dose of reality.”
Dillard said he believes local school boards should bear some responsibility when they decide to give huge raises to employees.
“If they go over a median amount, they should have to bear that locally,” he said. “But it can’t come from additional local property tax money.”
Most school funding in the 24th District comes from local property taxes.
“I don’t have the answer; we need to put on our thinking caps, but logic would tell you that you have to go cut the budget or that the employee share of benefits would have to be negotiated upward during contract negotiations,” Dillard said.
Nybo said the only way to solve the huge problem of unfunded and underfunded pensions is to include current employees in changes.
“There’s really no way to do it without including them,” he said. “Both pensions and Medicaid are issues we can no longer punt on. We can no longer neglect these; we’re creating a crisis.”
Along with Medicaid and pension reform, Dillard said there needs to be a focus on the state economy.
“Illinois rates 48th in economic development over the last 40 years,” he said. “We must produce jobs at rates comparable to other Midwest states, and we can do that by lowering the cost of doing business.
“Workman’s comp costs here are too much. We need to hold taxes down for small- and medium-size businesses. Doing that will produce more revenue as we create more jobs.”
Nybo said that while he is glad Quinn addressed both Medicaid and pensions in his budget address, he also believes the governor should have said more.
“We need to recognize what the speech failed to accomplish,” he said. “The governor didn’t get into specifics. We can’t be wishy-washy about this; we need to commit boldly. Pension costs account for 15 percent of operating expenses in the state, and pension costs are going up $1 billion from last year. He still has a spending plan that is totally devoid of reality.”
New legislative maps were drawn following the 2010 Census. The new boundaries cut off the western part of the district, which used to include Naperville, moved the northern boundary to include Elmhurst and extended the district east into Western Springs.