Ill. House adjourns without passing state budget

May 7, 2010 8:39:06 PM PDT
Democratic legislative leaders missed their self-imposed deadline for passing a new budget Friday and sent lawmakers home until they can figure out a solution to the state's $13 billion deficit.

"Our business is not finished," House Speaker Michael Madigan told lawmakers before adjournment. "When we are prepared to finish our business we will come back to Springfield for one or two days."

Speaker Madigan sent his members home for the weekend after telling them they'd have to return in a few days to finish the budget.

"We need to look at what it is we need to do in order to try to fix this budget. It is broken," said State Rep. Mary Flowers, (D) Chicago.

House members of both parties had questions about the 2,300 page spending plan approved early Friday by the Senate.

"We need some time time to look at it. I think there are places we could make cuts," said State Rep. Beth Coulson, (R) Glenview.

"There's a significant number of members who still want more input on if there are cuts, what those cuts should be," said State Rep. Susana Mendoza, (D) Chicago.

The Senate plan on the state is to skip a nearly $4 billion pension payment that would free up as much cash to fund the struggling Illinois government, including the big hole in the education budget, for a few months into the next fiscal year.

"We're gonna have to have full funding for education, the same kind of funding we had last year," said Gov. Quinn.

Republicans ridiculed and then defeated the original Democrat plan to borrow $3.7 billion to pay the pension obligation on time.

"Is it Alice in Wonderland? No, it's Madigan in Wonderland. Mike Madigan. Mike Madigan and his failed policies," said State Rep. Ron Stephens, (D), Highland.

"Where have you been? Cowering in the Corner. We're waiting...we're waiting," said state Rep. Jay Hoffman, (D) Collinsville.

Republican candidate for governor Bill Brady called the Democratic majority's budget effort so far a political joke.

"The governor keeps kicking the can down the road. This isn't working. And it is time for the people in charge to get it," said Brady.

Financial expert Laurence Msall, president of the non-partisan Civic Federation, strongly criticized the lawmakers for failing to act.

"Six million dollars in unpaid bills, $4 billion in pension contributions that have to be made. They have to cut spending. And only after they've cut spending, committed to actually funding the pensions could we support a tax increase," said Msall.

Msall stressed that more borrowing delays a budget solution, and requires the state to repay the loans, plus interest.

While Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton had aimed for a May 7 conclusion to the spring legislative session, that date has no special significance.

The first key date is May 31. After that, passing a budget would require a super-majority, meaning the Democratic majority would need some Republican votes to take action.

The most important date for passing a new budget is June 30, when the current budget expires. The Senate has passed a version of the budget that would address the deficit almost entirely by borrowing money or delaying payment of the state's many bills.

That budget plan would delay the $3.7 billion payment the state is supposed to make to Illinois' troubled government pensions. It also would delay payment of roughly $6 billion the state owes to people and businesses.

Gov. Pat Quinn would be allowed to dip into special-purpose funds and spend about $1 billion on routine government operations. He also would be given huge lump sums and allowed to choose which programs get the money and which don't.

The House balked at going along with that version of the budget but could not agree on any alternatives, such as borrowing money for the pension systems or raising income taxes as Quinn wants to do.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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