WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Illinois Lawmakers Craft Spending Plan

Springfield, IL – It's not yet complete ... but a new budget is near for Illinois. Although some work remains, both chambers have passed the bulk of a spending plan.

That plan was firmed up last night (TUESDAY) when the Illinois House finally agreed to borrow four billion dollars to put into state pension funds, after the proposal failed several times before.

The budget does cut state agency operations and schools ... though nowhere close to the slashing Governor Quinn had earlier warned would be necessary if the legislature failed to raise taxes.

Major cuts are prevented by borrowing, and by starting the year knowing that Illinois won't be able to pay six-billion dollars worth of bills on time.

Representative Jack Franks (D-Woodstock) says if Illinois were a bank, the state would be seized.

"I'm sitting here and I'm thinking that our new state motto could be: 'Government. If you think that our problems we create are bad, just wait till you see our solutions. Our state is insolvent," says Franks.

A group of legislators attempted to push through a series of cuts ... but most were voted down. Efforts to make retired state employees pay for health insurance and ending state payment to circuit clerks, coroners and other local leaders were among those that failed.

Education payments still in limbo

Even as lawmakers finalize state spending for next year questions remain over how schools will fare. A plan that has advanced to the Governor's desk cuts more than 300 million dollars to federally required programs like transportation and special education.

While many lawmakers are pushing for a cigarette tax increase to make up for that shortfall...It has yet to gain enough support. Representative Roger Eddy (R-Hustonville) is also a school superintendent. He worries about what will happen if lawmakers cannot find more revenue.

"You still have to provide the services. Just like a lot of other things, though, its under funded mandated services," says Eddy. "Transportation, nothing's changed there. You are just going to get less to provide those mandated services."

School districts and universities are still waiting on payments the state promised. A spokesperson for the Governor says he's still reviewing a plan that would let universities borrow money to shore up their budgets.

Quinn has issued a statement saying he would NOT sign it unless it was part of a larger borrowing package.

Thanks to Illinois Public Radio for providing this report.