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Quinn makes minor cuts to $35.7B Illinois budget

Published: Monday, June 30, 2014 12:51 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, July 1, 2014 12:14 a.m. CDT
Caption
(AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
Gov. Pat Quinn speaks to students and educators April 30 at the state Capitol in Springfield. Quinn largely approved the 2015 budget lawmakers sent him but used his veto powers to cut about $250 million from the $35.7 billion spending plan Monday. The Chicago Democrat said he cut money for renovations to the state Capitol, which drew criticism last year over the hefty price tag.

CHICAGO – Gov. Pat Quinn on Monday largely approved a 2015 state budget he has criticized as "incomplete" for not extending a temporary income tax increase, setting off another back-and-forth with his Republican rival over how best to fix Illinois' huge financial problems.

The Chicago Democrat cut $250 million for renovations to the state Capitol from the $35.7 billion spending plan, saying Illinois can't afford to move forward with improvements this year. He also said he has directed state agencies to make additional cuts, including selling half the state's 21 airplanes.

"While legislators didn't do their job on the budget, I will continue to do mine," Quinn said in a statement.

Quinn wanted legislators to send him a budget that included an extension of Illinois' temporary income tax increase, which is set to roll back in January. But legislators trying to keep their seats this fall rejected that idea, instead approving a spending plan that doesn't fully cover spending in the fiscal year that begins Tuesday.

Quinn's signature means that if legislators don't return to Springfield post-election and approve new revenue – such as extending the tax increase – the state will face a roughly $4.4 billion budget hole. That could force layoffs, facility closures and massive program cuts that Quinn said he wanted to avoid.

Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner, who opposes extending the tax increase, said Quinn's leadership Illinois has meant higher taxes and big cuts to school funding and that "structural reforms" are needed to fix the problems.

"Pat Quinn broke his promise on taxes, and his only goal is to permanently take more money out of every hard-working Illinoisans' paycheck – and this broken budget is the result," the businessman from Winnetka said in a statement.

Quinn's campaign, meanwhile, has attacked Rauner for not putting forward a budget plan of his own and not outlining how he would cut spending if the tax increases isn't made permanent.

The 67 percent income tax increase, approved by Democrats in 2011, cost the typical Illinois taxpayer $1,100 last year. It's set to drop from 5 percent to 3.75 percent on Jan. 1, reducing state revenues by about $1.8 billion. The loss of revenue would more than double in the following fiscal year, when the lower tax rate would be in effect for a full 12 months.

The budget Quinn signed Monday keeps funding for schools flat but doesn't allocate enough money to cover increased expenses, such as health care costs and wage increases. Republicans have called it "gimmicky" because it uses special funds for day-to-day operations and banks on future increases in revenue that may not materialize.

Democratic Senate President John Cullerton has said it's likely legislators will return after the election and approve either the tax increase extension or other revenue. On Monday, Cullerton spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon said the budget "secures funding for key priorities, but there will be more tough choices for fiscal progress in the future."

Lawmakers may override Quinn's veto of the money for Capitol renovations with a three-fifths majority vote in both chambers. The project drew criticism last year for being unnecessarily extravagant at a time when the state has a multibillion-dollar backlog of unpaid bills. Among the items that prompted Quinn to say he would freeze funding were three sets of copper-plated doors and two chandeliers that cost $80,000 each.

Quinn on Monday also touted other cuts he has recently ordered, including eliminating 80 paid parking spaces for state employees who work downtown – an annual savings of about $100,000 and reducing lease costs for state buildings by about $55 million.

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