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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Gov Quinn Signs State of Illinois budget hours before deadline : article June 30, 2011

Chicago Tribune : Clout Street By Monique Garcia and Ray Long :June 30 2011

Gov. Pat Quinn signed the state budget into law tonight, saying he cut $376 million from what lawmakers sent him.

The signing came hours before a midnight deadline to get a new spending plan in place. The state's new budget year begins Friday and without Quinn's action state government would not have been able to spend money.

In a news release, Quinn said he cut $376 million from the state's main checking account.

The governor said he cut $276 million in Medicaid spending, $89 million in school transportation spending and more than $11 million earmarked for regional school superintendent offices.

The Medicaid trims are billed as rate cuts to what the state pays hospitals to care for low-income patients. But "safety net" hospitals that have a high proportion of poor patients would be exempted, the Quinn administration said.

Quinn said lawmakers wanted to spend much more on school transportation but he cut it back to this year's level.

The governor also said he vetoed another $336 million in other state funds that his budget office found were double appropriations by lawmakers, most of it for interest payments on statewide construction loans.

Lawmakers approved the budget at the end of May, slashing $171 million in public school funding, erasing financial support for everything from teacher and principal mentoring to state writing tests for high school students.

The budget lawmakers sent to Quinn also cut money for college scholarships, to deliver meals to seniors and provide job training to people on food stamps.

The blueprint largely was a joint effort between House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, and House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego. The two teamed up for a $33.2 billion budget that is $2 billion less than what Quinn wanted and $1 billion less than the Illinois Senate put forth.

Senate Democrats tried to tack on $430 million in additional spending, but the House didn't go along with it.

Quinn expressed concern from the start that the budget cuts would hurt the state's most vulnerable citizens during a down economy.

The budget cuts came despite a 67 percent increase in the income-tax rate Democrats pushed through in January. A large part of the tax hike was billed as temporary and some lawmakers called for spending cuts to ensure that they could live up to in four years.

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