Cities, universities and other groups are going to have to find ways to cope with budget cuts, according to Republican State Sen. Kyle McCarter.
McCarter, R-Lebanon, spoke to the College Republicans at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville on Monday, discussing “what you’re not being told about budget cuts.” He believes the key to balancing the budget will be ferreting out waste and fraud, with everyone bearing the burden of the state’s financial problems.
McCarter said the budget situation isn’t as complicated as people think: the state has been spending more than it had for a long time. “This is not really news, the situation we’ve gotten ourselves into,” he said. “It’s been happening for a decade.”
McCarter said it is “dangerous” for politicians to promote budget cuts, as part of the Republican minority. “You have to fight for what you think is important,” he said.
McCarter said his focus is on eliminating waste and fraud, and believes the cost savings from those cuts will offset the pain from the budget cuts. He said Illinois’ tax burden is too high; while the income tax is significantly lower than Missouri and Indiana. He said the overall tax burden, including property taxes, is driving people out of Illinois.
“What we’ve seen is a half million people leave this state,” McCarter said. “This is about numbers and budgets, but in a way, this is about families. It’s about whether my kids can live close enough to me so I can see my grandkids.”
McCarter said the state can’t borrow more money and shouldn’t raise taxes. “If we choose to get out of this by increasing taxes, we will see the number of taxpayers come down,” he said.
Several years ago, McCarter said, the funding for the MAP grants that provide tuition assistance for low-income college students was cut. Students protested vehemently in Springfield, and funding was restored.
“A lot of cutting in government goes on just to see how people will react,” McCarter said.
However, he said, people also find out how much government they can live without. “I think there’s a tremendous amount of support from a majority of citizens to live within our means,” he said.
McCarter said the state “made promises they couldn’t keep” in regards to pensions, and is a supporter of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s plan to freeze pensions or reduce benefits.
As far as the students’ concerns about the impact of a 30-percent funding cut to SIUE, he said he believes more students attending will make the difference.
More students attending the university will bring in more revenue, he said, and professors should teach more classes. “I would hope that raising tuition is the last resort,” McCarter said.
To get out of the budget crunch, McCarter said, Illinois’ culture is going to have to change. He said he believes the state should not provide welfare programs — that it is the job of churches and private organizations to care for the needy.
In Illinois, McCarter said, they have created an “entitlement culture” that has “enslaved millions.” Instead, he said, he’d like to see tax incentives for private organizations to take up the role of government in caring for the needy.
In Indiana, he said, they dealt with budget problems by shutting down all rest areas for a year and stopping all services at driver’s license facilities that could be provided via the Internet.
Brian Earll, president of the SIUE College Republicans, said he wanted to bring McCarter to speak so they could hear another side to the budget cut discussion that has continued on campus in recent weeks.
Two weeks ago, the state Senate Appropriations Committee held a hearing at SIUE at which Chancellor Julie Furst-Bowe testified that the proposed 30-percent budget cut for SIUE would be devastating, requiring a 112-percent tuition increase if they were to maintain their current level of services. Other testimony from hospitals, nursing homes, local mayors and social service organizations also protested proposed cuts under the Rauner budget. Also last week, the SIU Board of Trustees approved a 5-percent tuition increase after having held tuition at no increase for the past year.
Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2507.