Ill. House OKs Deep Cuts in Preliminary Budget

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    NEWSLETTERS

    panoramio.com / fish667
    The Illinois Statehouse

    Schools, college scholarships and health care for the poor would face sharp cuts under a budget approved Friday by the Illinois House in a rare show of cooperation between Democrats and Republicans.

    Meanwhile, partisan battles continued at full force in the Senate.

    Democrats approved budget measures without giving Republicans a chance to review them. Republicans complained loudly and accused Democrats of spending more than Illinois can afford.

    "What you offer is an increase in spending," said Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine. "It guarantees that we will borrow yet again to pay our bills."

    Although both the House and Senate passed new state budgets, there are major differences between the two versions. Gov. Pat Quinn has his own proposal, too.

    Reaching a deal that can pass both legislative chambers and get the governor's signature could still prove challenging.

    "I don't expect that this budget will be the final spending plan," Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said shortly after House members voted for painful cuts to state services. "We're not sending any ultimatums by the adoption of this budget today."

    The House plan would spend about $25.2 billion from the state's general account for the budget year that begins July 1. That's about $600 million, or 2.4 percent, below the current budget.

    It would achieve that reduction mostly by cutting education and human services.

    State support for schools would fall by about $169 million, or 2.4 percent. The Monetary Award Program would lose $17 million for college scholarships, a 4.2 percent cut. In human services, Medicaid bills would be paid more slowly, many would be trimmed 1 percent and administrative spending would drop $181 million.

    ``There was a lot of hand-wringing and a lot of tears'' in the appropriations committee that set those amounts, said Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago. ``We can go home to our communities and say, `We done our job, we cut the budget.'''

    Some legislators emphasized that spending cuts will make life tougher for people who rely on state help.

    ``These are real lives. These are people that are mentally ill. These are people that are disabled, blind, aged,'' said Rep. Patricia Bellock, R-Hinsdale.

    The House version of the budget is about $1 billion smaller than the version approved by the Senate on Friday and $2 billion below Quinn's proposal.

    A key difference between the House and Senate plans is in revenue projections. Senate Democrats are counting on state government taking in about $1 billion more than the House estimates it will. That additional money allows the Senate to avoid deep human service cuts.

    Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, defended his version of the budget and sidestepped questions about whether the Senate will support the leaner version passed by House members.

    "I don't know. Maybe they'll see the wisdom of ours and decide to vote for ours," Cullerton said.

    In the House, Madigan led Democrats toward a leaner budget and was able to work with the Republican minority on a plan that both parties could support.

    The Senate was a different story. The two parties traded accusations and never managed to cooperate. If Senate Republicans back the House version of the budget, that could leave Senate Democrats isolated and unable to fight effectively for their spending priorities.

    Having two different versions of the budget working their way through the Legislature at this point -- two weeks before lawmakers go home -- is remarkable.

    Usually, nothing solid emerges until the session is about to end, and then lawmakers are given a "take it or leave it" choice on a budget worked out behind closed doors by the governor and legislative leaders.