Illinois Senate President John CullertonThe state has a nearly 3 billion dollar budget hole, and the president of the Illinois Senate wants ideas from Republicans on how to bridge the gap.  Senate President John Cullerton says most of the budget is wrapped up in what he calls required spending, such as pension and Medicaid payments. Bridging the gap by cutting $3 billion elsewhere would decimate funding for schools and college tuitions, according to Cullerton, so he wants to hear specific proposals from Republicans, particularly those running for governor.
 
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As for his own ideas, Cullerton isn’t offering any yet.  “I’m gonna wait and see what the governor’s budget is,” Cullerton said.  “I’m gonna talk to our caucus, but more importantly, I want to find out from the Republicans, if they’ve got a plan, if they want to be the governor for the second half of this fiscal year, they should tell us now what they want us to vote on.”  Cullerton says he’s not making any pitch to extend the expiring income tax hike, though he added that the option is on the table. For now, Cullerton’s projection assumes it will be allowed to sunset in January 2015, reducing revenue by $1.6 billion.
 
The savings from last year’s pension reform bill are not factored in due to the ongoing court battle over the legislation.  A joint appropriations hearing is set for Wednesday at the Capitol.
 
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