As the governor pushes constitutional officers to cut their budgets by 9 percent, some are having trouble justifying the cuts and others say across-the-board cuts are not a solution. While Illinois Comptroller Judy Barr Topinka says she is crunching to see where she can cut her budget, she calls across-the-board cuts “stupid.”
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“I think anytime you do across-the-board cuts I think that’s stupid, OK, point blank, because I think you throw good things out with the bad,” Topinka said. “To me it’s sloppy bookkeeping because there’s a number of things that really you should go after to cut, that just beg to be cut or consolidated or whatever. So maybe a little bit more careful looking would be in order.”
For Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, whose office still hasn’t recovered from a 25 percent cut during the Blagojevich administration, across-the-board cuts are hard. She says each office operates differently and has different needs. “There a lot of conversation and there was even last year about budgeting for results. Well it’s not one size fits all,” Madigan said. “You have to look at each individual office and agency and determine what resources do they need to work, not just appropriately and efficiently, but also in a way that they can benefit the state overall.” Madigan says her office, short-staffed as it is, brings money into state coffers – over $900 million in 2011. Without the ability to pay competitive salaries for attorneys, the turnover rate for attorneys in her office is high, which threatens that revenue stream.
It’s a different story for Lt. Gov. Shelia Simon. With a limited scope of responsibilities, Simon can be more flexible with her budget. She says her office initiated cuts before the governor gave the mandate. “It was what we set out to do and we’re able [to], thanks to a wonderful staff. The state’s getting a good value out of the money spent by the lieutenant governor’s office,” Simon said. The governor says constitutional officers must lead by example, and cuts at those top offices could convince state agencies of the need for shared sacrifice.