The president of the Illinois Senate is defending his members’ efforts at budgeting.   The gross amounts in the state budget have risen in recent years, but Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) says that doesn’t represent new spending.

“Our budgets have made the full pension payments, even as those payments have soared to make up for generations of inaction and under-funding,” he said.

The state has also paid down $3 billion worth of unpaid bills in the last three budgets, is paying off pension bonds, which were used to make pension payments during the recession, and is no longer pushing group health and Medicaid bills into the next budget year, he said.

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Meanwhile, the state has closed 14 state facilities and reduced the state workforce by 5,000 people over the last five years to save money.

It’s not enough for Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont), who says the time has passed when the state can make delicate cuts to the state budget. She says what’s needed now is cuts that are blunt.

“It’s going to cause some pain, and we’re going to have to ask the religious communities to pick up some of that slack, but if we do not reset in this state, and bring our spending in line with revenues, and stop raising taxes every couple of years, we simply won’t have people left. Jobs are leaving now. We’re at a crossroads,” she said.

The governor unveils his budget proposal on Wednesday.

(Copyright WBGZ Radio / www.AltonDailyNews.com)