SPRINGFIELD – Pat Quinn and Adam Brown couldn’t be more different. Quinn is a Chicago Democrat, Brown a Decatur Republican. Quinn holds the top executive office in the state. Brown is one of 118 state representatives.
But Wednesday saw a first for both: Quinn gave his first budget address as governor; Brown listened to his first budget address as a state representative.
Brown is part of a Freshmen Class that later will cast their votes on a budget for the state.
“It’s great to be here. I love it. It’s humbling to be here,” Brown said. “I’m the youngest member of theGeneral Assembly so we have some serious concerns not only for our generation, but for the next generation. We’ve got to take a look at the future of Illinois.”
Most of the first-timers are Republicans who came into office on the anti-incumbent wave that characterized nearly every 2010 contest. They campaigned on fixing the state’s notorious budget problems, mainly through shrinking spending.
Quinn’s proposed budget of $35.4 billion is an increase over last year’s spending. The governor’s administration says this is because their budget makes all the payments it’s obligated to, something that hasn’t happened in the past.
Regardless of explanation, many newcomers question increasing spending and said Quinn’s budget needs serious work.
“This was my first budget address. I am deeply concerned,” Tom Morrison, a GOP representative from Palatine, said. “We haven’t had real cuts made. We still have a huge, huge hole that has to be filled. The tax increase is supposed to be temporary in nature but it doesn’t fill the hole.”
Ron Sandack, a first-time state senator from Lombard, said he hopes Republicans will have some say in the process.
“I’m hoping (the governor) take the bait, sit down with Republican leaders and talk about cuts, and stop spending so much,” Sandack said.
State Rep. Thaddeus Jones, D-Calumet City, said what was presented Wednesday was a good start, but it needs tweaks. He and Brown shared the sentiment that whatever comes forward, it needs to be a bipartisan effort.
“As a freshman legislator, I hope to work with both sides of the aisle to help produce a final budget that can help the people of Illinois and help move our state forward,” Jones said.
Now that Quinn has laid out how he wants the state’s finances to be handled, it is up to the Democratic-controlled Legislature to give its input. Ultimately, both the General Assembly and Quinn have to sign off on the final product.
Individually, Freshmen Class members don’t have a lot of sway in the statehouse. The legislative leaders generally hold the power in Springfield, deciding what legislation moves forward and what dies.
But taken as a group, the newcomers are a substantial voting bloc. Whether they will flex their collective muscle to shape the budget only will become clear over time.