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Gov. Quinn calls proposed budget "most difficult" one yet

1 year, 10 months ago by Bob Gough

No additional spending for schools, health care, or roads

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn says he’s submitting the “most difficult” budget he’s ever had to since he took office. The Chicago Democrat began his budget address before lawmakers at noon on Wednesday. He says lawmakers’ inaction on the pension crisis has squeezed out spending on other services. Illinois’ pension problem tops nearly $100 billion. He says spending levels for the budget in 2014 fiscal year is the lowest since 2008. Gov. Pat Quinn is touting a recent contract agreement with Illinois’ largest union as one way his administration has saved money, including $900 million in health care costs.

AFSCME In his Wednesday budget address the Chicago Democrat called it “unprecedented” among his gubernatorial predecessors and a “landmark” agreement. His administration and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 reached a tentative agreement last week. They reached a three-year contract after negotiating for 15 months. The proposal requires state workers to pay more toward health care and requires retirees to pay health insurance premiums for the first time. All that will add up to the $900 million savings over three years.

Pensions Gov. Pat Quinn has issued a direct challenge to lawmakers to approve pension legislation immediately. Attempts at overhaul on the nearly $100 billion in unfunded pension liability have failed repeatedly, though there are currently several bills pending. In his budget address Wednesday, Quinn told lawmakers: “It’s time for you to legislate.” Quinn says that the pension payment is squeezing other services and departments, including education. His budget calls for steep cuts to education.

Fracking Gov. Pat Quinn says a proposal that would establish regulations for high-volume gas and oil drilling is a “jobs bill.” The Chicago Democrat supports a measure that lawmakers introduced last month. It was crafted with the help of the industry and some environmental groups. Fracking uses high-pressure mixtures of water, sand or gravel and chemicals to crack open rock formations and release oil and gas. The industry is looking at southern Illinois’ New Albany shale. But opponents say Quinn should support a moratorium on high-volume hydraulic fracturing because more studies are needed on pollution and health risks. Quinn delivered his annual budget address before lawmakers on Wednesday.

Public Safety

Gov. Pat Quinn has proposed a budget that includes money for beefing up public safety. In his budget address Wednesday, Quinn said there is more money for mental health services and new cadet classes for the Illinois State Police. Quinn says the budget is also focused on anti-violence strategies. He says those are a few bright spots in an otherwise bleak outlook for the state. Quinn spent much of his address talking about the need for a pension overhaul. The state’s unfunded liability is nearly $100 billion and attempts at reform have failed. He says trying to catch up on the payment is squeezing out other services.


Gov. Pat Quinn says that any state revenue from gambling should go toward education. Quinn delivered a budget address on Wednesday that includes $400 million in cuts for schools. But Quinn says any new gambling legislation must have ethical protections. Quinn has vetoed two gambling expansions that lawmakers have sent him. Both bills proposed nearly half a dozen new casinos in the state, including one in Chicago. Quinn is calling for a ban on contributions from the gambling industry, but lawmakers haven’t been thrilled about it. The Senate’s executive committee was scheduled to look at another possible gambling expansion later Wednesday.

Bill Backlog

Gov. Pat Quinn is calling on lawmakers to end corporate tax loopholes to help pay down the state’s massive backlog of unpaid bills. In his budget address Wednesday, Quinn said he wants legislation in the next 12 weeks. He mentioned three specifics, including suspending the foreign dividend corporate loophole. He estimates they all together cost the state about $445 million each year. Quinn did not specifically details of his plan during the roughly half-hour address. But his aides say the proposed budget attempts to pay down roughly $2 billion. The backlog is roughly $9 billion. Quinn says his budget plans to correct previous years when bills weren’t paid in full.

Spares Early Childhood Education Gov. Pat Quinn says even though the proposed budget makes tough cuts to education he’s preserving a few areas, like early childhood education and some college scholarships. The Chicago Democrat delivered a budget address Wednesday that calls for about $400 million in cuts to education. Quinn says early childhood development is crucial as is the Illinois Monetary Award Program, or MAP grant program. Quinn says access to higher education is fundamental to a student’s earning potential. Quinn says the cuts to education are because of lawmakers’ inaction on the pension crisis. He says trying to catch up on a nearly $100 billion pension hole is crowding out spending on other areas, particularly education. Veterans

Gov. Pat Quinn says his proposed budget includes more money for veterans’ services. The Chicago Democrat said Wednesday during his budget address that it is the state’s duty to take care of veterans. He says it’s an area the state can’t afford to cut. Quinn says the budget includes increased funding for Illinois Veterans’ Homes, which are essentially nursing homes for veterans. The state has four including in LaSalle, Quincy and Manteno. There are plans to build another one in the Chicago area. The homes serve more than 900 veterans. The governor says the increase covers higher staffing requirements outlined in the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act.

“This is the first step in a long process of passing a budget here in Illinois. While I am extremely disappointed the governor’s budget cut $400 million from our K-12 education, I am pleased to see additional funding for staff at our veterans homes,” State Sen. John Sullivan (D-Rushville) said. “I’m pleased there are no additional facility closures, and I welcome this attempt to pay down our back log of unpaid bills.”


SPRINGFIELD  –  Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is proposing to spend nearly $1 billion more than last year, but not a single dollar of the additional spending will go toward schools, health care, or roads.

Illinois, instead, will spend more on pensions for public workers and higher salaries for nearly 35,000 state employees.

The Quinn administration laid-out its new spending plan Tuesday night, the governor will deliver his budget address to lawmakers Wednesday at noon.

Jerry Stermer, Quinn’s budget director, said the new state budget is “balanced, honest, and difficult.”

Among the highlights of the $35.6 billion budget:

  • Illinois’ pension payment will rise by nearly $1 billion. The total pension payment will be nearly $8 billion, or 19 percent of the state budget.
  • State workers covered by the new contract with the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees will receive close to $200 million in pay raises in the new budget. That includes back pay for raises that Illinois did not pay under a previous contract.
  • Education is taking a hit. General state aid for elementary and high schools across the state will see their funding cut by $150 million. College and universities are being told to expect a $400 million budget cut.
  • There are no tax or fee increases.
  • Gov. Quinn will ask lawmakers to “look at” automatic transfers from the state budget, but the administration would not say how much money the governor would like to keep.


$35 billion

The Illinois House has spent weeks trying to figure out just how much money the state will bring-in this year. State Rep. David Harris, R-Arlington Heights, said the tax haul for the state’s main checkbook, the general revenue fund, will be about $35 billion.

“That is about all we have to spend,” Harris said.

That $35 billion soon will become a spending cap, the Illinois House will adopt the budget cap and force Quinn to live within their limit.

But State Sen. Dan Kotowksi, D-Park Ridge, said the House is ignoring a couple of billion dollars that could be spent.

“We have nearly $2 billion in other funds,” Kotowski said Monday. “We need to look at the budget in its totality.”

MORE TO SPEND: Kotowski says there is more than $35 billion in Springfield.

Kotowski wants to use some of that money, which is either paid into special funds or directly transferred out of the budget, to avoid education cuts or pay the state’s mountain of old bills.

If Illinois does bring in $35 billion in the next budget year, that will be almost $1 billion more than last year, but Harris said no one should get excited.

“Even though we may be bringing in a billion dollars more, the pension payment is going up a billion dollars,” Harris said.

$8 billion

“This year’s pension payment is $1 billion higher than last year. And last year’s pension payment was $1 billion higher than the year before,” said Jonathan Ingram, pension reform director at the Illinois Policy Institute.

Illinois will pay nearly $8 billion for its five retirement systems when you add in all of the costs.

Quinn’s budget office would not comment on the increase, saying the governor will address pensions during Wednesday’s speech.

The governor has said several times in recent week that pension reform needs to be the top priority for lawmakers.

Harris said the increased pension payment is squeezing out money for all other areas of state government, and will continue to do so unless lawmakers change the defined benefit retirement plans for public workers.

IF NOT FOR PENSIONS: Harris said IL would have some money to spend if not for pensions.

“If we didn’t have a $1 billion increase in our pension bill we could give more money to education, more money to health care, more money to roads,” Harris said.

$400 million

Illinois schools know not to expect much from the state. Schools have seen the state’s education budget cut for the past two years, and are expecting the next state budget to be a three-pete.

“We fully expect that K-12 education will be seeing a significant budget cut in FY ’14. The governor will likely call for his plan to cut education by $400 million,” said Ben Schwarm, deputy executive director at the Illinois Association of School Boards. “Regardless, legislators have already told us to expect another 9 percent reduction in General State Aid.”

Schwarm said that cut would have Illinois spending as much on elementary and high schools in 2014 as the state did in 2008.

The Illinois State Board of Education last month asked for an increase in its budget, but lawmakers said school officials needed to get in touch with “reality.”

4 percent

The details of a new contract between the state  and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees are still trickling out, but it appears state workers are being promised a raise.

Neither Quinn’s office or an AFSCME spokesman would comment on the agreement.

But just because the governor has promised a raise, that does not mean lawmakers will agree to fund the raises.

“Remember that (last year) we passed a resolution saying we didn’t think anything was appropriate. In other words a 0 percent increase in the cost of living allowance,” Harris said.

He’s quick to say that the legislature, not the governor, decides how much money will spent and where that money will be spent.

AFSCME has sued to force Illinois get promised pay raises in the past. A judge in Chicago ruled in late 2012 that Illinois must pay what is promised in a contract. But the judge also said he could not force the Legislature to spend money it is not willing to spend.

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