Springfield agrees on budget bill

July 16, 2009 4:38:56 AM PDT
Illinois lawmakers came up with a new state budget to prevent a government shutdown Wednesday night. Governor Pat Quinn supports the deal and signed it into law.

The agreement involves borrowing money, layoffs, furloughs and service cuts.

The budget balancing act has been likened to a consumer using his MasterCard to pay his Visa bill. There is a big loan associated with this transaction, roughly the same amount the state might have raised had it passed a tax increase.

"Is there a lot not to like about this budget proposal? Absolutely," House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Curie said.

Even supporters held their noses as the revamped spending plan was introduced in the House, where Democrats failed to get a budget during the regular session.

"That's seven years of running this state. Those of you on that side of the aisle ought really to be proud of what you've done in past seven years," State Representative Bill Black (R-Danville) said.

After his fiery speech, though, even Black and many other Republicans voted for the budget. It's a 12 month spending plan with no income tax increase that purportedly erases the state's $9 billion deficit.

It cuts the bureaucracy by 8 percent across the board, with 2,600 layoffs and 12 furlough days for remaining state workers. Grant programs for social services would be cut by 14 percent.

"This is a budget that is bad for seniors, bad for children and bad for families in Illinois," union representative Keith Kellerher said.

What makes this budget "balanced", according to its critics as well as its supporters, is the plan to borrow $3.5 billion from pension funds and to pay some bills late intentionally.

"We're going to pay bills, we just have to pay them as we best can," Governor Pat Quinn said.

"Homeowners sometimes borrow to keep their bills a float, so I hope they understand that this is what we have to do to make sure the checks are paid, social services are running and to not have layoffs, at least more than we need to," State Representative LaShawn Ford (D-Chicago) said.

Late Wednesday evening, a spokeswoman for the comptroller's office said that office had begun just moments prior to print payroll checks for 5,000-6,000 employees who didn't get them Wednesday. Those checks should be on their desk tomorrow.


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