Mt. Vernon Register-News

State News

March 7, 2013

Gov: Pensions to blame for Illinois' worst budget

(Continued)

Quinn challenged lawmakers to send him a legislative fix and answered critics by laying out specific provisions he wants to be part of the solution. He warned that his budget would be "only a preview of the pain that is to come" if this General Assembly does not act.

But his speech barely addressed the "pain" that Quinn aides hinted at the previous evening, not even mentioning, for example, the $400 million cut in public education necessitated in large part because of the state's required contribution to employee retirement accounts.

Quinn proposed closing tax "loopholes" to produce money to pay down the $9 billion backlog the state owes to vendors. He would eliminate three tax breaks, at least temporarily, to produce an extra $445 million annually for a "Bill Payment Trust Fund."

"The more corporate loopholes we suspend, the faster we can pay down our bills," Quinn said.

He hinted he would be open to a heavily regulated expansion of legalized gambling, as long as the new revenue generated went to education.

Later Wednesday, the Senate Executive Committee endorsed yet another proposal to add five riverboat casinos in Illinois, including a land-based operation in Chicago, which would direct up to $1 billion in revenue from the slot machines annually to public schools. Quinn has vetoed two similar bills in just the past year. Quinn's assistant budget director Abdon Pallasch stressed that Quinn wants a pension fix first but said the governor remains open to talks on gambling.

Quinn also did not talk Wednesday about a plan his aides revealed Tuesday night to change state law and allow him to use some of the $2 billion set aside in funds that automatically dole out money to aid local governments, transportation and programs from violence prevention to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield.

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