Teutopolis Press - Dieterich Gazette-Teutopolis, IL
  • Illinois House, Senate prepare to cut below Quinn budget

  • SPRINGFIELD -- For the second year in a row, the Illinois House has adopted a conservative revenue estimate that will set a limit on how much the state will spend in the next budget year.

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  • SPRINGFIELD -- For the second year in a row, the Illinois House has adopted a conservative revenue estimate that will set a limit on how much the state will spend in the next budget year.
    Unlike last year, however the Illinois Senate is expected to go along with this year’s House figure.
    By an overwhelming vote, the House Thursday adopted two resolutions, both of which project the state will take in about $33.7 billion in state and federal revenues next year for general expenses. The estimate was prepared by both Democratic and Republican legislators.
    Although the estimate is higher than the one used to craft the current state budget, it is about $221 million below the amount Gov. Pat Quinn used to prepare the austerity budget he presented to lawmakers last week. It is also about $271 million below estimates prepared by the General Assembly’s own forecasters, the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability.
    “It is my personal opinion we need to give ourselves some breathing room,” said Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, chairman of the House Revenue Committee. “I would rather err on the side of safety and caution.”
    The Quinn administration stood by the accuracy of its estimates. Officials warned of the consequences of a budget built around the lower House estimates.
    “A difference of more than $200 million will lead to even further reductions during a time when many legislators call for cuts, but when cuts are proposed, they say, ‘Don’t cut here,’” said Quinn budget spokeswoman Kelly Kraft.
    Kraft was referring to criticism from lawmakers about Quinn’s plan to close mental institutions and corrections facilities.
    Last year, the Senate set a revenue figure higher than the House’s. This year, though, Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, accepts the House number, said spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon.
    Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, also agreed with the estimate, but said, “the most difficult part of our work will be reaching consensus on how much the state should spend and where.”
    The revenue estimate for next year is $500 million higher than the one used in this year’s budget. However, increased costs for pensions, Medicaid, health insurance and operating expenses are adding about $4 billion to the state budget next year, Bradley said. It will be up to budget negotiators to figure out how to deal with those increases within the spending limits set by the House Thursday.
    The next step will be for the House to allocate expected revenue among the various appropriations committees, which cover areas like education, human services and general state operations. That, in turn, will depend partly on how much money is taken off the top for things like pension obligations, debt payments and other mandatory expenses.
    Page 2 of 2 - “We have to give the appropriations chairmen their amounts to spend,” said Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley. “That will mean additional cuts in each area.”
    House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, said state spending “needs to be significantly lower” despite the revenue estimate.
    “It’s going to be lower than this year, and it’s going to be that way because we have to pay off a significant amount of bills,” Cross said. “The spending number is going to be a lot lower. I think we need to emphasize that.”
    David Thomas contributed to this report. Doug Finke can be reached at (217) 788-1527.

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