Illinois Public Media News
Gov. Pat Quinn signed the new Illinois budget into law Thursday, after first trimming money for school buses, eliminating support for regional education offices and chopping Medicaid.
The Democrat suggested the cuts could be part of further negotiations.
"Implementing a budget is not a one-day event but rather a year-round process filled with robust debate and difficult decisions," Quinn said in a statement.
Quinn has repeatedly criticized the spending plan lawmakers sent him, saying it shortchanged many important services. But he cut further.
Money for Medicaid, a health program for the poor, is being cut by an additional $276 million. That brings the Department of Healthcare and Family Services budget to $14.3 billion, or about 4.5 percent below current levels.
Illinois will still have to pay for medical services, however, so less money means bills are simply paid more slowly. Unless something changes, about $1.5 billion in Medicaid bills will be left unpaid at the end of the year, adding to backlog that already amounts to $6 billion or more.
"The point is to get the interested parties to the table to negotiate in good faith" on controlling Medicaid costs, Vaught said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Transportation money the state provides to local schools will be cut by $89 million, which leaves nearly $206 million, a substantial increase.
Vaught said the purpose of that cut is to focus limited state resources on classrooms.
"That's a local function, getting the kids to school," Vaught said, referring to the transportation money as "excess" state funds.
Reducing state aid for transportation is likely to force schools to take money away from other educational services in order to keep buses running.
Quinn eliminated all the money the state provides for regional offices of education around the state. The cut of about $11.3 million does not eliminate the offices, but it would force local taxpayers to come up with the money or close the offices.
Lawmakers rejected both of Quinn's education cuts. They have the option of restoring the $376 million that Quinn cut Thursday. Unless they take action, however, Quinn's version of the budget is the one Illinois will follow for the next year.
His office said Quinn's cuts bring the key measure of state spending to $32.9 billion, about $2 billion below the previous budget. That's a reduction of roughly 6 percent.
Vaught said he didn't know the total size of the budget, including federal funds, fees and other special categories. For the previous year, it was $52.7 billion.
Quinn did not make any public appearance to discuss signing the budget. He does not have any appearances scheduled for Friday either.
The additional budget cuts are likely to frustrate groups that feel the version approved by lawmakers was already deeply flawed. It slashed money to institutions for the mentally handicapped, promised long delays in paying Medicaid bills, reduced education spending and cut money for state employees.
"This is a fundamentally broken budget, an unworkable plan that falls far short of the revenue needed to adequately support basic services," said Anders Lindall, spokesman for the Illinois division of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
Lindall urged Quinn to spend at the levels needed to maintain services and then work with lawmakers to come up with more money later in the year.
But Vaught said Quinn must assume no more money will be available. "You implement right away and you do the cuts," he said.
A key question is what cuts Quinn can make. He reached a bargain with AFSCME last year in which the union agreed to make concessions and Quinn agreed not to cut jobs or close state facilities.
Vaught said Quinn will diclose more of his plans soon.
(AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
Carle Physician Group announced at midday on Thursday that its Rantoul office was temporarily closed, due to a problem with its sewer line.
Carle will reopen Friday. Patients who have appointments scheduled for Friday should plan to keep their appointments.
If you have questions, please call Carle's Rantoul office at 217-893-7700.
Bloomington physician David Gill is launching a fourth campaign for Congress.
It will also be the fourth time Gill is seeking a run against Urbana Republican Congressman Tim Johnson, but this time, the two would face one another in very different territory.
Gill said the re-drawn 13th Congressional District should work in his favor since it is a bit smaller, and will include Democratic support in cities like Springfield, and all of Decatur.
"So many times I would go to my part of Macon County, campaigning in the past, and long for the opportunity to connect with more of the voters within Decatur," Gill said. "But that was closed off to me, Decatur was divided up three ways, and now, lo and behold, all of Decatur is there and open to me."
Gill said the 13th district, which now includes an area near St. Louis, is a very winnable race for Democrat, but he expects opposition in the primary.
The Democrat said during Congressman Johnson's time in the 15th District, he has changed course on a number of issues, including the use of military force in Iraq.
"That's the type of big decision where the right decision needs to be made in the first place, before 5,000 service men are dead, and 30-to-40 thousand servicemen are grievously injured," Gill said. "Now, he walks around his old district and this new (the 13th) district and describes himself as an anti-war dub, if you will."
Gill said voters have had a short memory when it comes to Johnson's decisions. The Democrat added that voters don't grasp why Johnson would vote to end Medicare.
Gill ran unsuccessful bids against Johnson in 2004, 2006, and 2010.
More than 100 jobs will be cut from the University of Illinois Extension as a result of a large reorganization.
While initial budget figures called for more than $2 million in cuts, that figure increased to $7.6 million for the new fiscal year.
As it stands, the budget cuts will force the merger of several county offices, and the number of Extension units have been reduced from 70 to 27. And about 50 county extension director positions will be eliminated though layoffs and retirements.
Interim Associate Dean and Director Bob Hoeft said moving educators out of centers and into the counties should actually be a good thing. They specialize in areas like small farms, nutrition, and youth development in local 4-H programs.
Hoeft said while a number of the jobs cut were educator positions, he said no specific areas of expertise were targeted. He also noted that any counties that want to keep their extension office open could - but many will be operating only two to three days a week. He said in most cases, an office will remain open.
"The public spoke - the public said they wanted their offices," he said. "There are counties that said they don't need an office, and Douglas County is one example of that. Talking with elected officials, they've said that they had no real complaints, and it's worked real well."
Among the educator positions that were reduced, he says just six are left in agriculture, because few are needed anymore.
"We have a number of commercial ag people that come directly to campus," Hoeft said. "We also have 1,500 certified crop advisers in this state that are capable of giving sound, agronomic advice, and customers, the farmers of the state, go to them for that advice."
Hoeft said Extension will be relying more on electronic communication in the future since that is what younger generations demand.
The Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District gives passengers about 10 million rides each year. But as Dan Petrella of CU-CitizenAccess reports, for Champaign County's rural residents, getting where they need to go isn't as easy as walking to the nearest bus stop.
(Photo by Dan Petrella)
(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)
Starting Friday, Illinois' ban on capital punishment will take effect, but advocates on both sides of the death penalty debate say their work is not done.
State lawmakers voted in January to abandon capital punishment, and Gov. Pat Quinn signed the legislation in March. That happened more than a decade after the state imposed a moratorium on executions out of concern that innocent people could be put to death by a justice system that had wrongly condemned 13 men.
Gov. Quinn also commuted the sentences of all 15 inmates remaining on death row who are now serving life sentences in prison with no hope of parole.
Fifteen other states have also abolished the death penalty.
With the law in place, it would seem that The Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty could declare "mission accomplished." But the group's director, Jeremy Schroeder, said that is not the case.
"I wish I could tell you we're all retiring," Schroeder said. "But unfortunately there will always be some need for the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty."
Schroeder admits his group is downsizing, and has considered changing its name to "the Coalition Against the Death Penalty." Schroeder said the key task going forward is to make sure the ban remains.
However, critics like State Representative Dennis Reboletti (R-Elmhurst) are working to overturn it.
"I still believe, as studies do show, that the death penalty is a deterrent to these most heinous of crimes," Reboletti said.
Reboletti's legislation stalled in the House this past session, but he said he believes there is enough support for it to pass.
The Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty says it's poised to fight back legislation to overturn the ban.
Illinois has executed 12 men since 1977, when the death penalty was reinstated. The last execution was Andrew Kokoraleis on March 17, 1999. At the time, the average length of stay on death row was 13 years.
(AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)
Thursday, June 30th is the last day for ten jobs at the University of Illinois Urbana campus.
That day marks the end of large offset press operations at the campus printing department. The department will continue to print stationery, posters and small, digital printing jobs for the campus for one more year. But Director of Printing Barbara Childers said the shutdown of offset, letterpress and bindery operations ends a printing tradition that began at the Urbana campus in 1918.
"It's extremely difficult," Childers said of the cutback. "And we have maintained a close relationship with our retirees. So there are a number of old printers, who've come back in the last month or two to visit, just to see the operation while the presses were still running."
Childers said changes in the printing industry have led to an overall decline in offset printing around the world.
"There was a change in the tax rules that made it --- certainly not for the university but for other people --- less attractive to warehouse printed materials," she said. "And so, digital came on in a big way, because it provides a more instant printing. And as the quality in digital (printing) got better, offset volumes fell even further."
But Childers said she disagrees with assumptions that outsourcing all campus printing work beginning next summer will save the U of I money. Still, she said there are many fine private printing operations in Champaign-Urbana and surrounding communities that can take up the work they do.
One of the final offset printing jobs at the U of I Urbana campus printing department is the biennial compilation of board of trustee minutes. Childers said that is a publication that dates back more than 90 years, to the printing department's first year of operations. One of the other final campus offset printing projects is the July issue of WILL's Patterns Magazine. Beginning with the August issue, Patterns will be produced by Premier Print Group in Champaign.
Meanwhile, Childers said there plans for continued use of the printing department's letterpress. She said the Soybean Press hopes to use the letter press for both its own printing projects, and for training students in fine letterpress printing. The four-year-old Soybean Press is a joint venture of the University of Illinois' Rare Book and Manuscript Library, the School of Art + Design and the Graduate School of Library and Information Science.
The U.S. Department of Labor is giving an Illinois group $1.4 million to provide job training and other services to migrant farmworkers.
The department said Wednesday the money will go to the Illinois Migrant Council. The money is part of $78.3 million being provided by The National Farmworker Jobs Program to 52 groups around the country to pay for job training, employment services and other needs for seasonal farmworkers and their families.
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said the money is intended to help migrant farmworkers and their families lead more stable lives. Another $5.7 million will go to 16 groups across the country to provide housing assistance for migrant farmworkers.
Illinois' new budget takes effect Friday, the first day of the fiscal year. The state won't have enough money to pay businesses that are waiting for state payments.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to sign the state budget Thursday. He can accept the blueprint as lawmakers sent it over, or slightly amend it. State law restricts how much he can change.
Regardless, the budget won't include enough money to catch up on old bills. One person waiting to get paid is Ralph Ditchie, who runs two day care center for adults.
"I'm just a little guy from the south side of Chicago who started a business, and about five months ago, they owed us three-quarters of a million dollars," Ditchie said.
The state has caught up a little in what it owes Ditchie. But the delay he and others have gotten used to is not expected to ease up, even after Quinn signs the budget.
The Great Lakes hold six quadrillion gallons of water, which is 20 percent of the world's fresh surface water. As scarcity grows, there is concern more and more people are eying that water. A historic compact to protect the Great Lakes became law in 2008, and it's being tested for the first time in a thirsty suburb of Milwaukee. Illinois Public Radio's Lynette Kalsnes looks into the law and its history.
(Photo courtesy of Qfamily/Flickr)
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