Senate Advances Budget
Friday, May 25, 2012
The Senate Democrat budget package identifies Fiscal Year 2013 General Revenue Fund (GRF) spending totaling $33.3 billion. Senator LaHood, who voted against the Democrats proposed budget, noted the proposal relies on reducing Medicaid program liability by $1.6 billion, he pointed out that it is $1.1 billion short of the needed $2.7 billion reduction.
Senate Democrat lawmakers anticipate filling that hole with a tax on cigarettes – a revenue increase that would precipitate an increased appropriation that drives the budget total to $34.467 billion. This is approximately $1.5 billion more than the assumed House budget spending level, and the assumed revenues would total $35.7 billion – $2 billion more than the revenue resolution agreed to by all four caucuses in early 2012.
Republicans drew attention to millions of dollars in questionable spending initiatives advanced by the proposal, including funds for the lackluster Grow Your Own Teacher program. Buried within the budget plan approved by Senate Democrats May 23 was a $1.5 million earmark for the little-known program that is supposed to recruit and train parents and community leaders to become teachers.
However, the program has already received more than $19 million in its first six years and has only produced 29 teachers – that's an average of $662,000 per teacher.
In fact, only 54 individuals have ever graduated from the program, which works out to $356,000 per graduate. Although students who fail to graduate or who do not take teaching jobs are supposed to repay their educational costs, most are "counseled out" of the program, which does not require a repayment.
Digging deeper into the statistics – a total of 615 students has started the program since its beginning in Fiscal Year 2006. That works out to a dismal graduation rate of 8.7 percent.
Republicans also spoke out against the $400 million in fund sweeps in the Senate Democrat plan, and noted that it closes major facilities in Republican districts while protecting state facilities in areas represented by Democrats, such as Tamms prison and Joliet Youth Center.
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