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Quinn: Budget Cuts Could Mean 2,200 State Layoffs

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CHICAGO (AP) -- Gov. Pat Quinn announced Thursday that 2,200 state employees could lose their jobs as he attempts to cut an additional $1 billion in state spending amid continued uncertainty about the Illinois budget.

Quinn also wants state employees to take 12 unpaid furlough days and have their wages frozen.

"We have to cut costs, cut costs and cut costs," Quinn told business leaders at a gathering of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce at a downtown Chicago hotel.

The state's largest employee union, which would have to agree to furlough days and other concessions, said it had already dismissed the idea in an earlier meeting with Quinn administration officials.

"We made very clear that we don't believe it would make a significant difference toward balancing the budget," said Anders Lindall, spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

With a new fiscal year starting Wednesday, the state budget is far from resolved. Quinn continues to insist on an unpopular income tax that he says will help close a $9.2 billion deficit. He has warned about deep cuts to social service programs without the tax increase because there's not enough money in a makeshift budget lawmakers already approved that the governor calls "half-baked."

But Quinn has backed away from those threatened cuts in recent days.

"I'm not going to accept that budget," he said. "I'm going to send it right back to the Legislature, and we're going to sit there and we're going to get a full budget."

If Quinn does that, the groups facing cuts won't be saved, they'll just be thrown into limbo until a state spending plan is eventually worked out.

The Democratic governor did offer new details Thursday on concessions he's willing to make to build legislative support for his income tax increase.

Quinn said he would settle for raising the corporate income tax rate to 6 percent from 4.8 percent, instead of the 7.2 percent he originally proposed. He hasn't budged on the personal tax rate, which he wants to move up to 4.5 percent from the current 3 percent.

Patti Schuh, spokeswoman for Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, was unmoved.

"We've been clear and consistent that there's lots of things that need to be done in state government and a tax increase is not the first one," Schuh said.

Quinn has gotten no guarantees his new proposal would win lawmakers to his side.

"There's no promises for votes at all," he said.

As time runs out for an alternative budget, Republicans have been pushing for a short-term spending plan to give lawmakers more time to sort out the state's finances and move forward with some of the spending reforms and government efficiencies the Republican party has called for.

Republicans have new leverage because any new budget or tax increase needs a super majority to pass and that requires their support.

Quinn said he's "not very excited" about a short-term budget to keep government running.

"I think that's just postponing our rendezvous with reality," he said.

-ASSOCIATED PRESS

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