Governor Quinn Approves New State Budget

July 02, 2012

(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed a $33.7 billion state budget for 2013, but not before cutting $57 million from it that lawmakers had originally sent him.

The budget cuts discretionary spending by $1.4 billion from last year, and paid $1.3 billion in old bills, closes and consolidates 57 facilities and restructures the state's Medicaid program.

But the cuts include millions lost for school funding, public safety, mental health facilities with no plan to address rising pension costs.

The bill cuts education funding by $200 million and child-welfare spending by $85 million.

"Cutting the budget is never easy but we must make the difficult decisions necessary to restore fiscal stability to Illinois," Quinn said during a late Saturday morning press conference at the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago.

Quinn says his actions will save the state about $82 million in the coming year by shuttering the facilities.

The closures include: - Tamms Correctional Center, Dwight Correctional Center, Southern Illinois Adult Transition Center, Decatur Adult Transition Center and the Westside Adult Transition Center in Chicago; - Illinois Youth Center in Murphysboro and Illinois Youth Center in Joliet; - Tinley Park Mental Health Center, Singer Mental Health Center and Jacksonville Development Center.

Quinn says he wants to redirect at least $50 million back to the Department of Children and Family Services that lawmakers had originally cut out.

"Are we going to keep outdated, half-full facilities or are we going to invest and make sure we protect vulnerable children who are in danger of being neglected and hurt," Quinn said.

Quinn will have to work with lawmakers to restore that funding during the veto session in November.

Quinn is also hoping to get back $165 million from the U.S. Department of Corrections if it choses to buy the Tamms supermax prison. Quinn says the state is in negotiations with the federal government but it might take a while to complete. The prison is scheduled to be closed by the end of August.

Quinn noted that the amount of the budget going toward state pensions is now three times what it was five years ago.

He says of the 2013 budget, about $5.3 billion is to pay retirement costs for teachers and other state employees.

In 2008, it cost was $1.7 billion.

"We cannot continue on a path of having more and more of our budget devoted to pensions. The crying need to have pension reform is right now," Quinn said.

But lawmakers left Springfield at the end of May without approving a pension reform package. Leaders have been meeting in Chicago ever since but still no deal.

The hang-up appears to be a plan to shift pension costs from the state to suburban and downstate school districts. There's little confidence, however, anything will get worked out before the fall elections.

Story source: AP