The numbers are coming. On Wednesday, Gov. Pat Quinn's administration plans to put online a deeper look at the state's budget situation. It's part of a deal made with lawmakers that let Quinn push his budget address back to March 10, instead of giving it a week ago. This week's State Capitol Q&A takes a closer look at this early peek at the budget and what's coming next.
The numbers are coming.
On Wednesday, Gov. Pat Quinn's administration plans to put online a deeper look at the state's budget situation. It's part of a deal made with lawmakers that let Quinn push his budget address back to March 10, instead of giving it a week ago.
This week's State Capitol Q&A takes a closer look at this early peek at the budget and what's coming next.
Q. What's behind these numbers being released Wednesday?
A. The state budget process is usually a behind-the-scenes game at this point. Governors keep numbers and proposals mostly secret until a big public unveiling in February or March.
But Quinn and lawmakers are changing that this a bit.
A law approved two weeks ago calls for pushing back the address where Quinn spells out his budget plans for next year but also requires him to disclose more budget information ahead of time.
So Wednesday, on his Web site at http://budget.Illinois.gov, Quinn will put out more information than is usually available on the state's budget situation before the speech.
Q. What will be in this information?
A. There are two parts – one for this year, and one for next.
For the current budget year, Quinn will spell out the revenues coming in and the spending going out. That will cover both the actual numbers racked up this year and the estimates for the rest of the year ending June 30.
Then for the new budget year, he'll outline estimated revenues for that full year and estimated spending requirements. Those include how much the state has to pay into the pension systems and how much it has to make in debt payments for borrowing.
And Quinn will be opening up his site to comments from both the public and lawmakers for how to get the budget into shape. He plans to use those to put together his proposal.
"I truly believe that our budget deliberations will be best served if everyone is in and no one is left out," Quinn wrote in a recent letter spelling out his plans to lawmakers.
Q. Why is this being spelled out now?
A. Quinn contends it's part of his administration's commitment to being more open about government's actions.
"My goal is to continue to improve the budget process through increased interaction and transparency," Quinn wrote.
But there are also more pragmatic factors. Lawmakers know taking more time on the budget frustrates voters who feel they already have dragged their feet too much. Republicans hammered home that point in opposing the measure that delayed the budget address into March.
So by putting information out early and soliciting input, Democrats can blunt the procrastination criticism and try to turn it around as taking the time needed to put together a better product.
Q. What happens after this information is out there?
A. The information is only a glimmer of the budget situation. Quinn will wait until March 10 to spell out in detail how he plans to actually deal with the major problems facing the state.
The public and lawmaker budget proposals and comments will be disclosed on the site to show who's saying what and see where the ideas go.
The budget address will be the start of a long road, as lawmakers and Quinn try to deal with incredible budget gaps of billions of dollars through solutions that don't cost them elections in the fall, and yet don't bring government to a screeching halt either.
The work toward that goal will be closely watched in the weeks and months ahead.
Ryan Keith can be reached at (217) 788-1518 or firstname.lastname@example.org.