Republicans like the governor’s proposal to cut Medicaid by $2.7 billion, but they are against a cigarette tax increase. The governor wants to raise cigarette taxes by a $1 to offset the Medicaid cuts. State Sen. Dale Righter (R-Mattoon) says the governor had it right until he said “tax increase”.
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“The governor’s raising the white flag and saying ‘You know what? We’re really not going to change the system that much and we’re going to go ahead and raise taxes,” Righter says. Righter says eliminating more waste, fraud and abuse is a better way of fixing Medicaid. Illinois currently charges 98 cents in taxes on cigarettes, and the revenue from that tax has been declining since 2005. However, State Rep. Patti Bellock (R-Hinsdale) says despite Republicans’ differences with the governor, they understand the severity of the situation. “We are dealing with a serious population. This is not an easy job,” Bellock says. “You’re talking about children on ventilators. You’re talking about seniors in wheelchairs. You’re talking about the most fragile population in Illinois.”
Mark Newton, chief executive of Swedish Covenant Hospital in Chicago, says the governor is putting thousands of jobs and vulnerable people in serious risk to correct years of the state’s neglect. “We did not get here overnight,” Newton says. “Taking $2.7 billion out of a system that admittedly needs reform and trying to do that in one fell swoop is way too much and way too fast.” The Illinois Hospital Association says the proposal calls for 8 percent cuts to Medicaid for hospitals. Illinois already owes $1.9 billion in late bills to the Medicaid system.