Quinn wants $2 billion in state Medicaid cuts

SHARE Quinn wants $2 billion in state Medicaid cuts

FILE - In this Dec. 13, 2011 file photo, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn speaks with reporters in his office at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield. A commission created by Quinn nearly two years ago to investigate claims of police torture by former Chicago police Lt. Jon Burge and his men is quietly falling apart, an apparent victim of the state’s budget mess. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)

Gov. Pat Quinn said he plans to cut the state’s Medicaid spending by $2 billion as a painful but necessary way to attack the state’s budget crisis.

He also echoed state House Speaker Michael Madigan’s call for suburban and Downstate school districts to start contributing to their teachers’ pensions instead of letting the state pick up the whole tab.

Will those school boards have to raise property taxes?

“No – not necessarily,” Quinn said following a speech to the City Club of Chicago. “We can phase things in over a period of time.”

Last year Quinn proposed cutting the state’s Medicaid budget by $600 million. The state Senate cut that to $300 million and in the House of Representatives, “Democrats and Republicans banded together and announced they would take ‘zero percent’,” Quinn said. He plans to triple down and try for a bigger cut.

What exactly will he cut?

Quinn said he would spell that out in his budget address in two weeks. But it involves changing the state’s Medicaid program into a “wellness system” instead of a “provider payment system,” he said. The problem he faces is that cuts to Medicaid can mean cuts to federal matching funds.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who had earlier held a news conference with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, made an unscheduled stop to listen to part of Quinn’s speech at Maggiano’s Little Italy restaurant.

Emanuel sat with Preckwinkle, who had been sitting with Quinn, perhaps to tamp down rumors she is considering a run for governor. Emanuel has said he is thankful for Quinn signing a bill to allow speed cameras near Chicago schools and parks. But he did not say why he stopped in at Quinn’s speech.

Asked why he thought Emanuel stopped by, Quinn said, “We’ve got to be teammates.” Quinn mentioned he and Emanuel will hold an announcement next week about state investment in community colleges.

Quinn said the 78 percent of state pension beneficiaries who are not state employees [mostly teachers and college professors] and those who are will have to negotiate what sacrifices they are willing to make – though they have threatened to sue over any changes, which they say would violate the state constitution.

“We need to roll up our sleeves in Illinois and enact public pension reform for existing employees,” Quinn said.

And Quinn vowed to cut the tax loopholes that lobbyists have snuck into the state’s tax code over the years:

“We’ll ask the loophole lobby: ‘What’s more important, early childhood education for a 4-year-old or your loophole?’ We’ll ask: ‘What’s more important: Scholarships for somebody who’s deserving but can’t go to college without a scholarship or your loophole?’”

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