House and Senate lawmakers were in Springfield Tuesday and among the biggest issues they have to tackle are the state's fiscal crisis and the budget.
Lawmakers may have differing opinions on how to solve it, but they all agree that the state budget is in serious trouble. Part of the problem is that Illinois has more than $4-billion in unpaid bills and many of the vendors who are owed money are being stretched to the breaking point.
The state has raised taxes in recent years, but not enough to keep up with spending which has left the state with a deficit of historic proportions. There are more than a few lawmakers who believe Illinois needs to rein in spending before raising taxes.
"We need to look at big programs like Medicaid and we need to reform those programs in a way that will save taxpayers dollars and better care for the Medicaid enrollees," said Senator Dale Righter, R-Mattoon. "We need to look at the proliferation in the creation of new spending programs or the expansion of current spending programs and put a stop to that. Those are things that we need to do first before we go to the public and say we need more of your money."
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle admit tax hikes during this recession is not likely to be popular, but neither would cutbacks in state programs.
There is a ray of hope on this otherwise gloomy economic landscape and that's the $3-billion in federal stimulus money that may be coming to Illinois.
The Obama administration's rescue plan still has a rough road ahead and it's not clear how much the land of Lincoln will get if and when and the measure makes it through Congress.