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House Speaker Michael Madigan Says He Was 'One of Many' Who Signed Off on Overspending

Legislator makes rare public address at Elmhurst College Government Forum.

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan said the state has a long way to go to get out of its current financial hole.

However, he said legislators made a good start last year by cutting Gov. Pat Quinn’s proposed budget by $2 billion.

Madigan made a rare public address to a forum at and outlined some of the fiscal challenges facing the state, but he offered few election year remedies. Tuesday’s event was the fifth annual governmental forum held at Elmhurst College.

Madigan used broad strokes to outline some of the economic concerns facing Illinois, including pension reform, state budget, workers compensation, unemployment and educational reform.

Madigan, a Chicago Democrat, said addressing the state budget is the most difficult task facing the legislature due to limited resources. He said the state has a “huge budget problem,” much of which stems from overspending.

Madigan accepted some of the responsibility for the state’s financial woes. He said the legislature spent more than the state took in during many budget cycles, which led to the state owing millions of dollars in unpaid bills. Madigan has been House Speaker since 1983, with the exception of two years when Lee Daniels, an adjunct faculty member in Elmhurst College's political science department, was speaker. As speaker, Madigan controls what bills come to the House floor, but said he was “one of many” who signed off on overspending.

“There are plenty of legislators from both parties who would rather spend than cut,” Madigan said following the event.

Sen. Kirk Dillard, a Hinsdale Republican, agreed with Madigan that there are numerous state lawmakers who share the blame for the state's economic problems. He said he commends Madigan for shouldering some of the responsibility, but added that Madigan has been the one constant in the Illinois legislature throughout the economic decline.

Illinois currently faces a budget deficit of about $8 billion.

The state’s budget woes contributed to weak economic growth across the region, said Lance Pressl, president of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Pressl said the economy in the Chicago region has stagnated as leaders struggle to shift from a manufacturing-based economy to a more innovate and modern economy.

Pressl said a soon-to-be-published study commissioned by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development indicated that the only part of the economy to grow in recent years is the public sector. Pressl warned that government cannot be the solution to the state’s economic problems. He said public and private leaders must come together to find solutions to grow the economy.

Elmhurst Mayor Pete DiCianni said those kinds of local partnerships have proven to be cost savers, particularly in social services. He asked Madigan if the legislature would push for more partnerships.

Without committing his support, Madigan said he knows there are plenty of lawmakers who prefer community-based programs.

Madigan said he did not expect to cut local distribution funds, which must be a relief to some local government leaders who lobbied against proposed cuts last year.

Any solution to the state’s budget woes would have to be long-term, Madigan said.

“There’s a limit in how far to raise taxes and how much you can cut,” Madigan said.

In January 2011, the legislature passed a midnight-hour income tax hike that is set to expire in 2015. However, when speaking to reporters after the forum, Madigan would not address whether he would support extending the hike or making it permanent.

Madigan also addressed the state’s woefully underfunded public pension plans and called on local school districts to contribute more to the pension plans. Madigan said the state contributes about $3 billion to the teacher retirement fund, even though they’re not state employees. He said it’s not out of line to ask the districts to pay into the system.

“Why don’t you contribute? These are your employees,” he said.

Dan January 25, 2012 at 01:28 AM
The state pays only 8.25 percent of District 205's budget doesn't even pay this on time and now Madigan thinks we should pick up the teacher pension costs as well on our property taxes? Why is it that the I'm able to share any school related concerns with the school board at least twice a month but there isn't similar monthly meetings in the area where we could share our concerns with those that represent us in Springfield?
Jim McMahon January 25, 2012 at 06:04 AM
People who don't have children must really hate paying more for this failed system.
Mark Thoman January 25, 2012 at 02:22 PM
Note that Madigan is about $800 million high in what he says the state paid in, and that the money paid in was borrowed, putting ever more debt on the backs of taxpayers. The state borrowed $3.7 billion and put in $2.2 billion. Payout in 2011 was about $4.1 billion. TRS sold almost $2.4 billion of investment assets to cover the gap. Eating your seed corn is never a good idea if you plan on a future.
York Parent January 25, 2012 at 03:02 PM
Madigan is a joke and he is also the single biggest problem in Springfield.. It's too bad that all the sheep in his district continue to re-elect him.
Elmhurst Citizen January 25, 2012 at 03:04 PM
The Illinois Constitution provides a requirement that the State have a balanced budget. There are no provisions that allow the legislative or executive branch to "sign off" on overspending. Both the legistlators and executive branch "swore to uphold the Illinois Constitution." These people have failed in their duties to the citizens and need to be removed from office ASAP.
Stewart Levine January 25, 2012 at 08:01 PM
I would have liked to heckle this guy, thats why they dont advertise when they are going to lecture. he is one of the gate keepers in illinois politics. he was probably knee deep in the dirt with blago, and ryan. hes been in office for 30 years. talk about solving the states financial what do you think his pension liablities are? You wanna solve the states problems, force term limits. The constitution also was originally desgined for each 35,000 citizens to be represented by 1 congressman. today we have 1 congressman on average representing 750,000 people. this was so it would be harder for anyone to use financial manipulation as a means to control congresses voting record, just as the private foreign bankers do today. this country is owned like a peice of property.... we're just human chatel, or modern day technological serfs, talking animals. don't believe me? google america freedom to fascism, and the money masters. i'm sure this model could be applied to state politics too. alot of large banks make a fortune off of the interest of our state owing billions to them. in so many words, we're in the same situation as greece, perhaps worse, because someone has been sweeping the dirt under the carpet for so long, and now theres too much under there to be hide. people will jump ship from this state so fast, its why communists like dick durbin are trying to illegally tax amazon.com purchases. the only way this can be solved is if more people get angry and make noise.
Elmhurst Citizen January 25, 2012 at 09:34 PM
As we all know, Michael Madigan is the defacto Governor of Illinois. He set up the House rules so that only bills he wants get voted on. If any of his posse (Democrats) ever vote against any bill he wants, Madigan goes for the jugular and makes sure anything that representative wants doesn't get introduced to the floor. He wanted the ComEd Smart Grid bill. Quinn vetoed it, but Madigan and his posse overrode the veto. I simply call Madigan, "The Poster Child For Term Limits. He is the center of the cancer what ails Illinois.

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