Byline: John Patterson Daily Herald State Government Editor
SPRINGFIELD - Lawmakers are running out of alternatives to raising taxes to plug a state budget gap after nixing the idea Wednesday of borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars.
The rejection of a borrowing plan followed by one day a rebuffing by legislators of a plan that balanced the state budget solely through cuts, including a $696 million slashing of education spending.
But somehow, lawmakers must balance the state budget, which is $1.3 billion out of balance. Yet even as they reject cuts and borrowing, most are unwilling to concede they are approaching their last resort - raising taxes.
"Somebody's going to have to step up to the plate and say this is what we have to do," Gov. George Ryan said Wednesday. "It may well be me, who knows?"
Ryan said some lawmakers have suggested a temporary hike in the income tax, raising the cigarette tax, or raising taxes on riverboat casino profits to plug the budget hole. Those plans have not gained widespread support.
The plan raised but quickly rejected Wednesday would have had the state borrowing up to $700 million either from outside investors or from funds the state already has. Nearly 600 state bank accounts are monitored by the state treasurer's office. In theory, the state could borrow money from one or several of those funds, such as the state account where motor fuel tax money is deposited.
The state accounts for prepaid college tuition, which thousands of parents have bought into, cannot be tapped to bail out the budget, noted Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka. …