A group of Oak Park eighth graders had a chance to grill the governor Tuesday about the state’s fiscal situation.   Of concern to some students in a social studies class at Julian Middle School is the future of education and what failure to make cuts to Medicaid would mean for students. “My question is if Medicaid and pension bills become uncontrollable, will education be deeply affected?” asked Grace, a student in the class.


Click  here for summary


“If you have one part or two parts of the budget growing and growing at a very rapid pace, in the area of Medicaid and pensions, they take up about 39 percent of our budget today…next year it’ll be 50 percent if we don’t make some changes that are necessary to sort of stabilize the situation, so that’s really my principal goal here in the next nine days, to kind of get the legislature to really focus in on these important reforms so we do have enough money for our schools so we don’t have education squeezed out by other costs,” Quinn responded.


To a similar question Quinn said that if changes aren’t made to Medicaid and pensions, classes at schools would likely be cut back. “If we don’t make the changes say just in Medicaid … we’d have to find $2.7 billion of cuts elsewhere, most of that’s going to come out of education, out of schools,” Quinn said.   Also on tap for discussion, the proposed $1 tax increase on cigarettes. Students wanted to know if there would be adequate help for those addicted to smoking and looking to quit should the state place another sin tax on a pack of smokes.


“Cigarettes are addictive,” stated Sage. “What if the higher tax prices hurt those that can’t stop smoking?”   Quinn says there are programs in place to help smokers quit. “There are studies of both young people and not so young people, who are longtime smokers, that are sensitive to the price,” Quinn said. “If the price goes up people tend to smoke less and that is good for society as a whole and for the person as an individual, but having said that, we want to have programs that help people that are addicted to tobacco.”   Elected officials often take time to visit social studies classes to answer questions about how things work in government. Quinn’s office called the question-and-answer session a “town hall meeting with students.”


(Copyright WBGZ / www.altondailynews.com )