Once Attorney General Lisa Madigan made her electoral plans official, it didn't take long for State Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale) to jump into the 2010 gubernatorial race. In a recent interview with Rockford Register Star columnist Chuck Sweeny, Dillard touts his ...
Once Attorney General Lisa Madigan made her electoral plans official, it didn't take long for State Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale) to jump into the 2010 gubernatorial race. In a recent interview with Rockford Register Star columnist Chuck Sweeny, Dillard touts his experience working as former Gov. Jim Edgar's chief of staff, turning $1.6 billion in inherited debt "into a $1 billion surplus while increasing education funding, cutting in other areas and hiring innovative managers to run departments." (Of course, he tiptoes around that income tax increase made permanent by his boss early on.) While Dillard certainly has a good understanding of how business operates in the governor's mansion, the interview shows he doesn't grasp the issues effecting the state in 2009.
Take the budget deficit, for example. When asked whether it was possible to close the gap without a tax increase, he says "I believe it is":
You certainly don’t talk about raising taxes until you’ve done what I’ve suggested, calling in business leaders (and) the Civic Federation, which has clearly shown an interest in the state budget.” Dillard wants these civic and business leaders to help him comb through the budget to look for possible savings.
First of all, the Civic Federation has not only "shown interest in the budget," they've voiced support for the policy Dillard opposes -- an income tax increase (albeit a smaller hike than the one pushed by Gov. Quinn). That seems worth a mention by Sweeny. Moreover, in a report this spring, the Civic Fed proposed closing the budget deficit by stripping out as much as $4.2 billion in spending. Yet they couldn't provide specific examples of necessary cuts.
Next year, budget experts estimate the deficit will start at anywhere between $7.4 billion and $10.4 billion. Without new revenue, that means one-third of all spending will have to be curtailed. If Dillard believes that can happen, he is living in fantasy land, as the State Journal-Register's recent budget analysis points out:
QUESTION: If you oppose a tax increase, where can the state responsibly cut enough spending to put the budget back on sound footing?
BACKGROUND: Illinois could fire every state employee and not make a dent in the deficit. Cutting Medicaid spending in half wouldn’t solve the problem. Reversing the last five years of spending increases wouldn’t do it. Any plan to balance the budget without higher taxes would require major choices about what state government should and should not be doing.
In the Sweeny interview, Dillard also joined his fellow Republicans in calling for Medicaid reform. But he exhibits a striking ignorance about the "managed care" system he argues is necessary to keep the program solvent. Here's his quote:
“Medicaid is the largest expenditure in the state. We spend more on Medicaid than education. We’re one of the few states without a managed care program. Folks can go to an emergency room for $3,000 in costs to the taxpayers,” he said. Managed care would concentrate more on preventive care and treatment by doctors in clinics. [Emphasis added]
One of the "few states without a managed care program?" In fact, Illinois boasts a voluntary private managed care system -- serving 145,000 Medicaid beneficiaries -- as well as a new state-run Primary Care Case Management (PCCM) program, Illinois Health Connect. As of late 2007, the latter provided coverage to 424,400 Illinoisans and has shown promising signs of cost-control, achieving a net savings of $104 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2008. In fact, only eight states in the nation have a lower cost-per-patient ratio than Illinois. When it is fully implemented, the majority of our Medicaid and SCHIP populations will be required to enroll in the PCCM.
Some of Dillard's GOP colleagues, meanwhile, have proposed a mandatory migration of patients to private managed care. Back in June, we explained in detail why that is a dangerous move. Dillard would do well to study up on the topic before broaching it in an interview again.