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Gov proposes state deficit reductions

November 18, 2008 3:51:54 PM PST
As the state of Illinois deals with its own budget crisis, Governor Rod Blagojevich has a new way to deal with the growing budget deficit. He is asking the general assembly to pass an emergency budget act, which would give him more authority to make cuts. The question is, can the governor get that measure passed?

When Blagojevich has asked for authority to spend money for roads, bridges and schools, he has clashed with state lawmakers who don't trust the governor and have not passed his proposed capital bill. Now the state's chief executive wants the authority to cut programs already funded by the 2009 budget that is tipping out of balance as the state's economic crisis worsens.

Before he left for a trip to California at mid-day, the governor's office issued a news release. It said that only a few months after Blagojevich made $1.5 billion in cuts to balance the Illinois budget because of falling tax revenues, the spending plan is already another billion dollars in the red.

The administration's director of management and budget said that last summer no one realized how dire the situation would become.

"The revenue he anticipated to come in at much higher revenues is falling off," said Ginger Ostro, Ill. Office of Management and Budget.

The governor's four-part plan to manage the deficit includes more cuts in programs that possibly will include more layoffs, short-term loans to create cash flow to pay vendors, letters to Washington requesting $1 billion in federal aid over the next three years and Blagojevich wants the legislature to pass an emergency budget act giving the governor the power to hold back in contingency, in effect cut, as much as 8 percent of the appropriation to any agency under his control.

"He can make further reductions in the agencies that fall around his auspices and allow others to hold back in reserve," said Ill. Sen. Donne E. Trotter, (D) Chicago.

Trotter says the legislature passed an emergency budget act after 9/11, giving then-governor George Ryan emergency powers to deal with an economic crisis in 2002. But Blagojevich -- involved in a bitter feud with House Speaker Michael Madigan -- has a reported job approval rating of only 13 percent. Trotter, who is sponsoring the emergency budget act, said he realizes the measure empowering the current governor could be a tough sell.

"There's a lack of confidence amongst our members that the governor would do the correct thing and that is slash the programs that commutes a reduction," Trotter said.

Versions of the emergency budget act will be introduced in both the Illinois house and senate Wednesday. Trotter's plan for the senate is to get the measure on the floor for a vote later this week.

Speaker Madigan's office had yet to return calls for a comment on what might happen to the bill in that chamber.


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