Quinn: "Most difficult" budget he's ever submitted
Wed, 06 Mar 2013 21:28:33 GMT —
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.
The governor 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.
In the 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.
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, Quinn told lawmakers: "It's time for you to legislate."
He says that the pension payment is squeezing other services and departments, including education. His budget calls for steep cuts to education.
The governor says a proposal that would establish regulations for high-volume gas and oil drilling is a "jobs bill."
Quinn 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.
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Governor 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 says that any state revenue from gambling should go toward education.
In his budget address he includes $400 million in cuts for schools. But Quinn says any new gambling legislation must have ethical protections.
The governor 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.
Governor Quinn says he's going to issue an executive order later this week to eliminate 75 state boards and commissions that he says are redundant.
He made the announcement Wednesday during his annual budget address. He says the eliminations will save the state money.
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, 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.
The governor 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 budget address called 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.
Governor 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.