SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Pat Quinn outlined a $62.4 billion budget Wednesday that he called the "most difficult" he's had to propose. The Chicago Democrat didn't mention many specifics but his proposal includes steep cuts along with some spending increases. Here are the highlights:
The focal point of Quinn's speech was that lawmakers' inaction on the roughly $100 billion pension problem strains spending in other areas and led to cuts. While Quinn has made pensions his top priority for months, his speech to lawmakers took a sharper tone than before. "If I could issue an Executive Order to resolve the pension crisis, I would. And I would have done it a long time ago," he said. "... It's time for you to legislate."
While Quinn didn't mention a dollar figure during the speech, his budget proposes $400 million in cuts to education that state officials say will likely lead to teacher layoffs. Quinn said he wants to preserve early childhood education and the Illinois Monetary Award Program, which benefits college students.
Quinn said a recent contract agreement with Illinois' largest union is "unprecedented" when it comes to savings, estimated at approximately $900 million. The tentative deal with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 calls for employees to pay more toward health care and retirees to pay health insurance premiums for the first time.
CORPORATE TAX LOOPHOLES
Quinn said he wants to work with lawmakers over the next three months to close corporate tax loopholes. He mentioned three he estimates cost Illinois about $445 million annually. Quinn says the money could be used to pay down Illinois' nearly $10 billion in unpaid bills. The proposed budget calls for paying down the backlog by roughly $2 billion.
Quinn reiterated his support for legislation to establish regulations for high-volume gas and oil drilling, calling the proposal a "jobs bill." Quinn said the regulations are among the strongest nationwide and the measure could create thousands of jobs. Quinn wants to move forward on the fracking bill this year even as opponents say more studies are needed.
Quinn says his budget includes provisions to help fight violence and increase public safety. His budget calls for three new Illinois State Police cadet classes, more money for a program to reduce crime by repeat offenders and $25 million more to improve mental health care.
Quinn says his proposed budget includes more funding for staffing at Illinois Veterans' Homes. The state has four that serve more than 900 veterans.