Gov. Pat Quinn says Bill Brady, Illinois Republicans are 'plain wrong' on education, Medicaid

Doug Finke

Gov. Pat Quinn on Friday criticized his Republican opponent for saying it was wrong for Congress to approve more education and Medicaid money for states, including Illinois.

Illinois expects to get about $500 million more for Medicaid programs and about $415 million more for education after Congress approved additional federal aid to states this week.

Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, on Thursday called the aid "just typical Washington games, digging a deeper hole."  He said the $26 billion federal bill will add to the nation's deficit and Illinois will be faced with trying to cover for the funds next year after they are used.

"He wants to turn away federal money to keep our teachers working? He's just plain wrong," Quinn said after cutting the ribbon to open the 2010 Illinois State Fair.

"I think this is Exhibit A on why Sen. Brady is one of the worst people for education in Illinois," Quinn said.

Quinn said the additional federal aid was the result of both Republican and Democratic governors pushing Congress for additional federal aid in the wake of declining state revenues because of the recession.

"We got together in February of this year, Democrats and Republicans, and told the Congress we need this assistance," Quinn said. "If Sen. Brady, perish the though, was governor of Illinois, his voice wouldn't be heard. The fifth-largest state. He's dropping the ball on that issue. He's letting the parents and school children down."

Without either federal or state assistance, Quinn said, property taxes will "skyrocket" to make up the difference.

"I want to reduce property taxes. Sen. Brady wants to see them go through the roof," Quinn said.

In a statement, the Brady campaign dismissed Quinn's comments.

"It is stunning coming from a candidate who is pushing a massive income tax increase on businesses and families," said campaign spokeswoman Patty Schuh. "Pat Quinn has lost touch with the concerns of families across Illinois. They believe government must live within its means, we must hold the line on taxes and rebuild our jobs climate."

Quinn did nothing to clarify the furlough issue facing 2,700 non-union state workers. Quinn said those workers have to take 24 unpaid days off this year because Washington wasn't providing $750 million in additional Medicaid payments built into the state budget.

That was before Congress voted the extra aid this week which will give Illinois an estimated $500 million boost for Medicaid.

"There are still a lot of things we have to do to get through this fiscal year," Quinn said. "We're going to keep everything under review. We're not going to make any decisions on that right now."

But when asked when he would resolve the issue, Quinn talked about "a lot of other costs in Illinois that we still have to invest in."

Quinn did say he doesn't think a special session will be necessary for lawmakers to formally approve spending the new education money coming to the state.

Since the state didn't anticipate getting the federal money, it wasn't put into the state budget passed in May. That gave rise to speculation that lawmakers would have to convene before the veto session in November to formally approve spending the money before the state can spend it.

"We don't think that's necessary," Quinn said. 

He also said the state will announce shortly how the money will be spent. The state Board of Education has been saying the money will be distributed through the general state aid formula that supplies the bulk of state assistance to school districts.

Doug Finke can be reached at 217-788-1527 or Doug.finke@sj-r.com.