Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan
Though he supports the move, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan said Wednesday he believes a plan to jack the state's cigarette tax will have trouble passing.
"I would support an increase in the cigarette tax, especially for the Medicaid program,'' Madigan said. "The Republican position to date is against, so I don't think it will pass."
Quinn wants to raise cigarette taxes by $1 a pack -- up from 98 cents -- to bring in about $670 million. It would be coupled with cuts in Medicaid services and rates to close a $2.7 billion shortfall in the health care program for the poor.
The Chicago Democrat also called Gov. Pat Quinn's plan to cut pension costs "a good start'' that will face strong opposition.
Republicans say there are more ways to cut spending before increasing a tax. They haven't detailed those reductions but maintain that there's time for a bipartisan group to find them before the legislative session adjourns at the end of May.
Quinn's proposed cuts include ending seniors' prescription drug coverage, tightening income guidelines to disqualify 26,000 current recipients and ending services such as dental care, which the federal government gives states the option to cover.
Madigan would not comment on proposed cuts, saying he plans to consult his Democratic House members to "see what they're prepared to vote for.''
The Democratic governor's other major budget announcement last week is an overhaul designed to close an $83 billion funding gap in state employee pension programs.
Quinn suggests raising the retirement age, requiring greater contributions from employees' paychecks and relieving the state's obligation to pay the employer contributions for teachers by shifting it to local school boards, among other things.
"It addresses the problem in a broad-based way,'' Madigan said. "It's a good start. There are a lot of good ideas in there.''