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Governor Quinn Delivers "Most Difficult Budget"
It's a thorn in the side of the state: pension reform.
It's such a large problem to deal with that it means there's little money to go to other state priorities like education.
Governor Pat Quinn delivered a direct challenge to lawmakers to pass pension reform during his budget address Wednesday.
Almost one-fifth of the money in the state's main operating fund will pay for public employee pensions next year.
While presenting his financial road map for the state, Quinn told lawmakers there is more work to do on reform and paying off billions in overdue bills.
"This is the most difficult budget Illinois has ever faced," Quinn said.
He says the state can't continue on its current path.
Quinn says his proposed budget is a direct result of lawmakers' lack of action on pension reform.
"Within two years, Illinois will be spending more on public pensions than on education," Quinn said.
The financial outline includes a $400 million cut to education. But, it preserves funding for early childhood education and map grants.
Quinn proposes dedicating any new revenue from expanded gambling in the state toward education.
He's presenting a plan to pay down the more than $8 billion backlog in overdue bills.
"Over the next 12 weeks, we should work together to enact legislation that suspends unnecessary corporate tax loopholes and dedicates the resulting revenue to a new bill trust payment fund," Quinn said.
Quinn wants to increase funding for veterans' homes and bump up money for mental health services by $25 million.
He's also proposing three new cadet classes for Illinois State Police to help prevent violence.
"Our anti-violence strategy includes early childhood education, after-school programs, intervention initiatives, mentorship, mental health care, jobs and support for our law enforcement," Quinn said.
Lawmakers have mixed reactions.
The governor's budget is based on a revenue estimate that's a half-billion dollars more than the spending cap set by the house this week.
"Where are the specifics in terms of what is the state going to do, how is it going to get out of this, and what is the governor going to do to participate in the house revenue and finance process?" questioned Democratic Representative John Bradley, who chairs the House Revenue and Finance Committee.
"This was the governor's last opportunity to lay out a budget in which he can forth a plan that would allow for something they promised a few years ago which is repeal the income tax increase," said Republican Senator Sam McCann.
Quinn credits the tentative contract the state reached with the largest employee union last week.
But, he says pension reform should include a guarantee the state will make its full payment, adjusted employee contributions and changes to cost-of-living increases.
Now that the governor has presented his outline, it'll be up to lawmakers to approve a budget.
Quinn says he'll issue an executive order to eliminate or consolidate 75 state boards and commissions.
He's also calling on the General Assembly to move forward with a bill to allow hydraulic fracturing in Illinois.