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Schools, veterans get more money in Ill. budget proposal

Published: Friday, May 16, 2014 12:43 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, May 16, 2014 9:22 p.m. CDT
Caption
(AP photo)
Illinois Rep. Dwight Kay, R-Glenn Carbon, discusses state budget legislation on the House floor at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield on Thursday. The Illinois House is voting on a proposed 2015 state budget that presumes the extension of an income tax increase, even though lawmakers have yet to come up with the votes for the extension.

SPRINGFIELD – A spending plan the Illinois House approved this week includes more money for schools, veterans' homes and prisons.

House Democrats led the way – but by narrow margins – in adopting nearly 80 appropriations measures Thursday that form the basis of a $37 billion budget that begins July 1.

Republicans opposed the effort because they agreed earlier this year that revenues would be about $34 billion in the coming year, and the spending outstrips money to pay the bills. But Democrats are pushing – with backing from Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn – to make permanent a temporary income tax increase. If it rolls back as scheduled in January, the state would lose an estimated $1.8 billion.

Here are some of the highlights of the proposed spending plan:

• Education: Elementary and secondary schools would get $6.7 billion, including an increase of $132 million in general state aid – operating funds for salaries and learning materials. There would be $25 million more for early childhood education and bilingual education would increase by $12 million.

• Veterans: The $77.6 million budget for the Department of Veterans' Affairs would include $9 million more, mostly for additional staffing at veterans homes. The state operates homes in Anna, Quincy, Manteno and LaSalle. Veterans' Affairs Director Erica Borggren, during a visit to Anna this month, said without the continued tax increase, the state could face closing two of the homes.

• Corrections: The state's prison system would re-open two facilities closed just two years ago, transforming former youth prisons into specialized treatment facilities. There's $9 million in the House-approved budget to do that.

The work at the youth center in Joliet has already begun with a $20,000 study. Quinn wants to reopen it as a center for treating inmates with severe mental illness. The state sees it as a way to settle a 2007 federal lawsuit that said Illinois has not addressed mental health issues in its crowded prisons.

The other proposal would open up the former youth site in Murphysboro as a facility to handle repeat drunk driving offenders with an aim toward reducing recidivism.

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Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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