Gov. Pat Quinn signed the new state budget into law Thursday, making what he said are $1.4 billion in budget reductions and warning that more could be on the way. But anyone hoping for a detailed look at how state government plans to spend nearly $25 billion in the upcoming year was disappointed.

Gov. Pat Quinn signed the new state budget into law Thursday, making what he said are $1.4 billion in budget reductions and warning that more could be on the way.

But anyone hoping for a detailed look at how state government plans to spend nearly $25 billion in the upcoming year was disappointed.

“There’s still a tremendous amount of uncertainty about how the cuts will be implemented,” said Anders Lindall, spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the largest of the state employee unions

Quinn announced reductions of about $509 million in spending plans for a variety of state agencies, but insisted the cuts are necessary to move the state forward.

“The core priorities of state government will be maintained,” Quinn said. “There will be some reductions across various agencies that aren’t the highest priority.”

The largest reduction, $313 million, is primarily targeted to programs that serve the mentally ill and developmentally disabled through the Department of Human Services.

 

‘Vulnerable people’ in jeopardy

“There are some vulnerable people whose services will be cut, notably in mental health,” said DHS Secretary Michelle Saddler.

DHS contracts with community-based organizations throughout Illinois to deliver services to the mentally ill and developmentally disabled. Contracts for the new fiscal year were sent to those agencies earlier this week.

Saddler, though, said those contracts won’t be finalized until budget officials finish setting additional money aside as an “emergency reserve.” It’s certain the contract amounts won’t increase as a result of that process, Quinn budget director David Vaught said.

Another $241 million reduction was made to preschool-12 education, in such targeted areas as transportation and reading improvement grants. The per-pupil portion of state school spending, called general state aid, along with early childhood education and special education, escaped the budget axe.

“We were able to minimize cuts to our budget,” said Illinois State Board of Education Chairman Jesse Ruiz.

 

No layoffs

The budget plan does not call for state employee layoffs. The administration and AFSCME struck a deal earlier this year in which the union agreed to defer part of its scheduled pay raises in exchange for a guarantee of no layoffs or facility closures through June 30, 2011.

Vaught said the administration continues to negotiate with other unions and hopes to reach more agreements to avoid layoffs. However, he said it is possible some non-union workers could be let go.

Quinn said he plans to save nearly $42 million by reducing overtime in the Department of Corrections. AFSCME has long complained that huge overtime costs in Corrections are the result of understaffing.

“I have no idea how the prison system can implement a $42 million reduction,” Lindall said.

AFSCME is also concerned about an executive order Quinn issued Thursday directing state agencies to make further reductions on their own, ranging from curtailing travel to canceling unnecessary subscriptions and memberships to slashing printing expenses by 25 percent.

One part of the order also directs agencies to develop a plan “to limit expenditures associated with group insurance, including increasing employee and retiree group insurance co-payments and deductibles.”

“We’re very firm in our belief that our contract sets contribution rates for state employees and retirees,” Lindall said.

Vaught said the administration intends to bargain with unions over the issue.

 

Borrowing appeal

The reductions still don’t come close to erasing the state’s $13 billion deficit, the largest in history.

Quinn still wants lawmakers to allow the state to borrow in order to make $3.7 billion in required payments to state pension systems this year. Without that, however, Quinn said the state will make the payments on a monthly basis, something that will further squeeze other state spending.

Quinn also has authority to take money out of special funds and to simply let bills go unpaid until the next fiscal year.

“Borrowing would allow us to accelerate the payment of bills,” Quinn said.

Quinn said he isn’t expecting miracles from the General Assembly.

“I don’t believe there will be any revenue from the General Assembly in the near term,” Quinn said. “After the election, maybe some of them may be more willing to take a look at the issue.”

Doug Finke can be reached at 788-1527.

 

More cuts on the way?

The Illinois General Assembly this year gave Gov. Pat Quinn the authority to put $2 billion into emergency reserves in the upcoming year -- essentially by making more budget reductions.

Quinn plans now to use only about $900 million of that authority, but details of how that will be accomplished weren’t available Thursday.

Quinn budget Director David Vaught said it could be the end of July before the job is substantially finished.

“We’re going to do it on a case-by-case priority basis, not with a meat-axe approach,” Vaught said.

That means, though, that people and organizations that rely on state government for funding still aren’t certain what they will have to spend.

 

Republican reaction

*“Governor Quinn today cut less than one-half of one percent from the state budget with a supposed promise to cut more. The people of Illinois know those cuts won’t happen.” – Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington, Republican candidate for governor.

* “It’s kind of what I expected. The governor talked in generalities, not specifics. There certainly is room for concern for any organization doing business with the state.” – Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield.

*One thing that jumped out is he didn’t address unpaid bills. Last year he came out with all of these cuts and then restored them all at the end of the day. It’s still just kicking the can down the road without knowing where you are at.” – Rep. Raymond Poe, R-Springfield.

*It was kind of short on facts. There’s still a lot of what-ifs out there.” – Rep. Rich Brauer, R-Petersburg.

 

Budget changes

Here are budget changes proposed Thursday by Gov. Pat Quinn, as outlined by the Governor's Office of Management and Budget. Details of exactly how programs will be cut still may be weeks away.

*Elementary and secondary education: $241 million cut from categorical programs, including $84 million from transportation, $68 million from reading improvement grants and $70 million for other grants.

*Higher education: $100 million cut, including $86 million in federal stimulus funds that were not continued.

*Department on Aging: $17.4 million cut, apparently focusing on the Community Care Program.

*Human Services: $312.6 million cut. More than $262 million is to come from grants. Non-Medicaid programs in mental health and developmental disabilities will be reduced or eliminated, payments will be delayed for developmental disabilities programs, and eligibility will be limited for several other programs.

*Healthcare and Family Services: $162 million increase, but that’s based partly on an enhanced federal Medicaid match that Congress has not approved.

*Public Health: $17 million cut. Women's and rural health grants, medical student scholarships and community health center expansion are among areas to be reduced.

*Children and Family Services: $6 million cut. Bed counts will be reduced in institutions and group homes.

*Illinois State Police: $15.4 million cut. All district headquarters will be preserved.

*Department of Corrections: $41.9 million to be cut through "operational efficiencies."

*Emergency reserves: Quinn also directed that about $900 million be put into emergency reserves, though he did not identify where that money will be found. Budget Director David Vaught said setting aside the reserves “essentially undoes the appropriation -- it’s almost like a reduction veto.”

*Executive order: Quinn signed an executive order requiring state agencies to cut spending on travel, printing, overtime, office leases, contractual spending and other areas. The order also calls for reductions in group insurance costs, auditing of benefit programs, managed care for Medicaid, and conservation and energy efficiency, among others.

*Officials: The bills Quinn signed Thursday also:

-- Require all members of the General Assembly and executive branch officials to take 12 furlough days each

-- Eliminate 3 percent automatic cost-of-living pay increase for executive branch officials and members of the General Assembly

-- Reduce General Assembly per diems to $111

-- Reduce General Assembly travel reimbursements to 39 cents per mile