SPRINGFIELD, IL - Illinois Senate President John Cullerton issued the following statement regarding Governor Pat Quinn’s budget address:

“It’s clear that the Governor will begin to address the pressures created by Medicaid and pensions costs through bipartisan working groups that can propose solutions. I look forward to working with the Governor to address these issues this session. I hope all members of the General Assembly will consider the true cost of inaction in these two areas.

Our increasing Medicaid liability clearly illustrates the need for action. If we do nothing this session, next year’s budget will need to accommodate an additional $2.7 billion over last year. We simply can’t afford that burden. I’m confident that we will identify additional cost-cutting solutions while protecting the most vulnerable recipients.

The Governor’s proposal to make the estimated $5 billion pension payment demonstrates his commitment to meet our obligations. But we can’t afford to ignore the fact that this growing obligation is pressuring other necessary programs and services. It’s time to take the next leap forward in comprehensive pension reforms that control costs while preserving the constitutional rights of current employees and retirees. Unlike Indiana and Wisconsin, we intend to work with unions to accomplish this goal.

I’m pleased that the Governor’s plan appears to be balanced and realistic. Today he struck the appropriate tone needed to identify our challenges and outline some of the tough choices that will be made this year.”

SPRINGFIELD, IL - Illinois Senate President John Cullerton issued the following statement regarding Governor Pat Quinn’s state of the state address:

“I commend the governor for highlighting the many accomplishments that we have made over the last few years. As he advances new initiatives to create jobs and improve the economy, I look forward to hearing how we can fund these important priorities within a balanced budget.

We have taken steps to address our fiscal crisis by reforming the budget process, capping spending and identifying saving through changes to Medicaid and the pensions systems. However, it is clear that we still have a long road ahead.

Rising pension and Medicaid costs will impede our ability to fund priority programs and keep our commitment to those who provide the state’s most critical services. I urge the governor to remain vigilant and constructive in finding the savings and cost controls needed to move the state toward a more sustainable path.”

SPRINGFIELD, IL - Senate President John Cullerton today advanced a bill (HB 3810) to abolish the General Assembly scholarship program. Additionally, the Senate President's bill creates a taskforce to evaluate all tuition and fee waivers offered by state universities. While Cullerton has long held that reforming the legislative scholarship program was possible, it has become clear that the majority of the General Assembly supports ending rather than reforming the program.

“This program has become a major distraction from what should be the focus the session – the state budget, Medicaid and pension reform, said President Cullerton. “It’s time to put it behind us so that we can turn our attention to larger issues that must be addressed this year.”

This step follows Cullerton's past efforts to reform the General Assembly scholarship program by targeting specific abuses revealed by investigations and media reports. Reforms included prohibiting awards to family members of political contributors, blocking waivers to students outside of a member's legislative district, and tightening the requirements for applicants.

As part of the effort to reform the system, Cullerton has also been a proponent of reviewing state requirements for all tuition waivers. Given the fact that the General Assembly scholarship program makes up only 3.25 percent of the total value of all state tuition waivers, Cullerton believes there may be a need for more scrutiny related to cost and requirements associated with the universe of waivers. The bill calls for a task force to review all waivers and report findings on or before April 15, 2013. The bill abolishes the 103 year old General Assembly scholarship program by striking the program from state statute this year.