Quinn Won’t Specify What Will Be Cut From State Budget

CHICAGO — Gov. Pat Quinn insisted on Tuesday that unlike lawmakers, he's willing to make the tough decisions to cut spending – he's just not quite ready to say how.

At a news conference after an appearance at a Chicago elementary school, the governor would not talk specifics about how he will address a state budget approved by lawmakers that left open a $13 billion shortfall.

“We are going to have to make cuts across the board,” Quinn said, before going on to say he hopes to avoid deep cuts to human services, health care, public safety and especially education, which make up the bulk of the state's budget.

Read the full article here: Quinn Won’t Specify What Will Be Cut From State Budget.

Quinn: Senate will be back by month’s end to finish budget – Chicago Breaking News

Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn today predicted lawmakers will return to the Capitol by the end of June to vote on borrowing about $4 billion to make next year's state worker pension payment, the final piece of a patchwork budget aimed at keeping state government operating until after the November election.

via Quinn: Senate will be back by month’s end to finish budget – Chicago Breaking News.

State: Senators react to lack of pension borrowing bill – The Daily Journal

SPRINGFIELD — After the Illinois Senate left Springfield without a finished plan for paying the state's pension bills, lawmakers expressed disappointment in the way it all ended.The Illinois General Assembly was able to pass a budget, but hit a snag over plans to pay the pension payment.The House passed a plan to borrow the $4 billion needed to make the pension payment for fiscal year 2011, but the plan didn't come to a vote in the Senate.The Senate could return and pass the borrowing plan later this year, but no schedule has been set.The state could skip the payment this year, forcing the five public employee pension systems to sell assets and lose out on money earned from interest.Lawmakers believe skipping the payments could cost the state $20-30 billion down the line.As a third choice, lawmakers could make its full, $4 billion contribution to the pension systems, but that would create significant cash-flow problems for other parts of state government, including schools and social service agencies.

Click here to read the full article: State: Senators react to lack of pension borrowing bill – The Daily Journal.

Could state budget woes boost crime?

SPRINGFIELD — Potential reductions to educational programs in state prisons could lead to an uptick in crime, a prison watchdog group says.

The warning comes as the Illinois Department of Corrections is scrambling to find an organization to provide vocational training to inmates at two southern Illinois prisons.

Southeastern Illinois College trustees voted last month to stop providing services at Shawnee and Vienna correctional centers because it wasn't being paid in a timely manner by the cash-strapped state.

The community college joined at least two other vendors who say they will not do business with the Department of Corrections until they are paid. The others include an eyeglass manufacturer and an ammunition dealer.

The budget approved by lawmakers last month doesn't address the massive backlog, which is expected to top $5.5 billion this month.

“Everyone's sympathetic to the situation. There's just no money to pay us,” Southeastern board chairman Pat York said in a prepared statement.

The John Howard Association, which monitors prison-related issues in Illinois, says a decrease in educational offerings to inmates could increase recidivism rates.

“Numerous scientific studies have proven that education for inmates greatly reduces the likelihood they will commit new offenses after their release from prison,” the organization noted in a release this week.

Southeastern is among a handful of community colleges that provide educational services to state prisons. Illinois Valley Community College, for example, provides services to Sheridan Correctional Center.

Rend Lake Community College offers programs to inmates at the Big Muddy and Pinckneyville prisons.

Corrections spokeswoman Sharyn Elman wasn't aware of any other colleges threatening to quit because they are not being paid for their work.

According to college officials, Southeastern had hoped to gain assurances of timely payments from the state, but the ongoing budget mess “resulted in too many unknowns and increased financial risk.”

Elman said Southeastern was asking for money up front to provide educational services.

“Southeastern asked for advance payments going forward and (state) code does not allow us to do that,” Elman said. “We are currently in talks with another college and are hopeful that they will provide the service.”

Elman said a decision on what college will replace Southeastern could come quickly, allowing education programs to continue at the two southern Illinois prisons without a large gap in service.

“There really won't be any down time,” Elman said.

via Could state budget woes boost crime?.

City Room™ – Politics – Watchdog Urges Quinn to Veto State Budget

An Illinois budget watchdog group is calling on the governor to veto the new state spending plan.

Lawmakers are sending Governor Pat Quinn a budget that would put the state another $6 billion behind on its bills. They've also given Quinn emergency powers to cut spending unilaterally.

Laurence Msall, president of the non-partisan Civic Federation, based in Chicago, calls the bill “irresponsible.”

MSALL: This year we faced a $12.8 billion deficit. Next year, if things stand as they are, and there's not some sort of miracle economic recovery – which no one that we're aware of is forecasting – the state's deficit is gonna zoom well past $13 billion.

Msall says, down the road, it could be harder for Illinois to borrow its way out of financial trouble because its bond rating will likely drop.

He says Quinn should call lawmakers back to Springfield to re-work the budget.

But Quinn says he's planning to sign it, and make the cuts himself.

via City Room™ – Politics – Watchdog Urges Quinn to Veto State Budget.

Some cuts blocked, others approved – AFSCME Council 31

Some cuts blocked, others approvedAFSCME lobbying efforts helped to defeat budget amendments to lower the mileage reimbursement rate for state workers and raise health insurance costs for state and university retirees. But the General Assembly has now approved a budget package that includes massive cuts to a wide array of vital services.AFSCME lobbying efforts were key in convincing a House committee to vote down an amendment introduced by Rep. Karen May to drastically increase state and university retiree health care costs. Her fellow legislators rejected May’s contention that retirees should have to “feel the pain.” AFSCME was also successful in beating back an amendment from Rep. Naomi Jakobbson that would have reduced the mileage reimbursement rate for state workers.But the House of Representatives went on to adopt a budget plan that relies heavily on borrowing, underfunds virtually every responsibility of state government, and relies heavily on borrowing—further jeopardizing our state’s fiscal stability. The Senate concurred, allowing legislators to meet their end-of-May deadline and head home without ever really grappling with the state’s severe fiscal crisis.

via Some cuts blocked, others approved – AFSCME Council 31.

Illinois Issues blog: Senate skips pension borrowing vote

The Senate wrapped up some major issues before leaving Springfield today but avoided one of the largest components of the budget framework approved by the House this week.

And it seems that if a bill to borrow more than $4 billion to make the required employee pension payment is going to pass, Gov. Pat Quinn will have to do some hard lobbying of senators.

Read more of this >>

The Democrats Stumble At The Budget Finish Line | Progress Illinois

The spring session has officially come to an end in Springfield.  Both chambers passed some minor revenue generators, as well as a framework for the state budget that gives Gov. Quinn wide leeway to cut spending.  However, one large item remains unresolved.

The sticking point is a measure (SB 3514) that would allow the state to borrow $4 billion to cover the upcoming contribution to the pension system.  After narrowly passing the House earlier this week, the bill met resistance among the Democratic caucus in the Senate. “I don’t think we can afford to punt it down the road and keeping avoiding the problem even longer,” said Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), one of a handful of Democratic holdouts.  So, instead of calling the bill in committee yesterday morning, Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) held it with the intention of whipping up more support. But the body ultimately adjourned without even bringing the legislation to the floor. That means lawmakers will probably be called back to the capitol building for a special session sometime this summer. Read more of this >>

State budget still not foregone conclusion – Springfield, IL – The State Journal-Register

The Illinois Senate will take its stab at wrapping up a new state budget Thursday, but the results are anything but a foregone conclusion.

Although Democrats hold a super-majority in the chamber, there is dissent both on giving Gov. Pat Quinn extensive emergency budget powers and on borrowing up to $4 billion to make next year’s pension payments.

“There are members of the Senate Democratic caucus that don’t support borrowing for the pension, so we will definitely need Republican votes,” said Rikeesha Phelon, spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago.

That could be a major problem.

Read the full article here:

State budget still not foregone conclusion – Springfield, IL – The State Journal-Register.

House OKs borrowing to cover state pensions – Springfield, IL – The State Journal-Register

Pension borrowing — a major (and controversial) component of a state budget plan — finally won approval in the Illinois House on Tuesday after a series of rejections.

The House voted 71-44 to borrow up to $4 billion to cover next year’s payments to the five state-funded pension systems. The bill needed a super-majority of 71 votes to pass, and two Republicans — Bill Black of Danville and Robert Biggins of Elmhurst — provided the needed margin.

“We can borrow money or we can take a hike on our responsibility to pay the pension,” said House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago. “We have shown we can’t cut $3.7 billion, and we have shown we can’t raise $3.7 billion in revenue. That leaves borrowing.”

Read the full story here:

House OKs borrowing to cover state pensions – Springfield, IL – The State Journal-Register.