GOP skeptical of latest Quinn borrowing proposal


SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Pat Quinn’s latest pitch for the state to borrow money to pay its old bills – including for state employee group health insurance -- isn’t gaining support among a key group, the General Assembly’s Republicans.

Republican votes are needed for the state to borrow money for longer periods, and the latest Quinn plan on Wednesday didn’t appear to stir any more support than his previous proposal.

Senate Republican spokeswoman Patty Schuh said the state still hasn’t adopted an overall financial plan that includes significant budget cuts. Senate Republicans last week outlined $6.7 billion in possible cuts and savings, proposals Quinn dismissed as “goofy.”

“That’s why we suggested cutting spending and using the money to pay the bills and get current instead of borrowing again and incurring more debt,” Schuh said.

House Republican spokeswoman Sara Wojcicki said only that the House would consider the idea.

At a Chicago appearance Tuesday, Quinn said the state needs an “emergency” loan of $2 billion to pay down overdue health care bills and secure higher federal Medicaid reimbursements before those reimbursements expire June 30. The higher reimbursements are worth about $175 million to Illinois, he said.

This latest borrowing plan slightly scales down Quinn’s original proposal to borrow $8.75 billion to pay bills owed to vendors. Quinn calls it a “debt restructuring” because the money would then be owed to banks rather than state vendors.

The new version calls for borrowing $1 billion to retire the backlog of debts for state employee group health insurance. Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield, said he occasionally gets calls from constituents complaining the state has not paid their health care bills.

The group health insurance loan would be repaid over four years using money from the recent income tax increase.

Another $750 million would be borrowed to quickly pay Medicaid bills and secure the higher federal reimbursement. It would be repaid in 18 months using income tax money.

The remaining $6 billion in the borrowing plan would pay down other state bills. This amount would be repaid over 14 years, the loan term originally proposed for the entire package.

Doug Finke can be reached at (217) 788-1527.