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QUINN VETOES ILLINOIS BUDGET PLAN: State Without Spending Plan As Fiscal Year Begins

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) -- Gov. Pat Quinn's veto of a makeshift budget Wednesday marks yet another round of uncertainty and frustration for Illinois taxpayers, from state workers who might not get a paycheck to poor families wondering if they'll lose daycare and health services.

For the third straight time, Illinois government has entered a new budget year without having a new budget in place. State officials, despite some new faces, still rely more on confrontation than cooperation, even amid the worst fiscal crisis in Illinois history.

Things have gotten so twisted in Springfield that Quinn wound up opposing his own borrowing plan and legislative leaders are likely to fight to revive a budget they didn't want in the first place.

For now, government will operate more or less normally.

State employees are supposed to show up for work. A federal court ruling will keep welfare checks flowing and child-welfare operations in place. The state can use credit to buy gas for state troopers and office supplies for bureaucrats.

But Quinn noted there are no guarantees for the many local organizations that provide services on behalf of the state, such as drug counseling, day care and home assistance for the elderly.

Without a budget in place, any group that depends on state grants can keep delivering services as usual but they "do so at the risk of not being paid," Quinn said in a statement.

Quinn denied he was encouraging organizations to halt services in a bid to increase pressure on legislators to come up with a better budget. Still, Comptroller Daniel Hynes, a fellow Democrat, accused Quinn of creating hysteria with a message that "borders on the irresponsible."

Some organizations warned that they can't risk spending money and simply hoping that the state will reimburse them someday.

"We've been forced to issue notices of potential layoffs to over 700 employees throughout Illinois," said Nancy Ronquillo, head of Children's Home and Aid, which provides adoption and counseling services. "We have nearly 800 abused and neglected children that we have to worry about and workers who deserve 30 days notice before they are laid off."

The lack of a budget means Illinois doesn't have the authority to pay employees for any work in July. That would first hit home with checks due in the middle of the month. If the budget is still unresolved then, officials would have to decide whether to shut down offices or ask employees to work without being paid.

Because payroll takes time to process, a budget would need to be in place even sooner to deliver paychecks on schedule. A court, however, could order the state to keep paying employees despite the budget impasse.

Lawmakers aren't scheduled to return to the Capitol for further discussions until July 14, roughly the same time that the first government paychecks would be interrupted. Quinn did not use his power to call a special session that would bring legislators back to Springfield more quickly.

Illinois had a history of similar conflicts when Rod Blagojevich was governor. But now he's gone, as are the former top Democrat and Republican in the state Senate. The new blood generated some optimism earlier this year that the state's budget problems could be amicably resolved.

But that proved impossible as officials stared at an $11.6 billion deficit and the long list of unpleasant choices that it forced on them.

Quinn favored closing the deficit with a mix of spending cuts, tax increases and financial sleight of hand. Republicans opposed any tax increase and instead focused on cuts, although they offered few specifics. Democrats split, with many supporting a tax increase but some opposing it.

In the end, the Democratic majority could not muster enough votes for a tax increase, even though Quinn, Senate President John Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan all claimed they supported an increase. The three never seemed to be working in unison by backing the same plan at the same time.

Madigan, D-Chicago, repeatedly said Wednesday that passing a budget was complicated by Quinn's indecision and reversals - for instance, linking his support for a public works program to the outcome of budget negotiations after initially saying the two were separate.

"I think the governor's flip-flops have not helped in this effort," Madigan said at a news conference. "When the governor comes forward with recommendations, with requests, why people in the Legislature will obviously ask themselves and ask others, 'Well, I wonder if he will change his position tomorrow or the next day or next week.'"

Legislators wound up passing a budget that didn't come close to covering normal government expenses. Quinn estimated the remaining deficit at about $9.2 billion and said restrictions imposed by legislators and federal rules would force him to cut most of that money out of state aid to local organizations that provide human services.

"We cannot have a halfway measure that doesn't properly fund the human services of Illinois," Quinn said at a news conference Wednesday after he slapped a "veto" stamp on the key piece of the budget approved by legislators. "We've set the marker down that the people of Illinois are entitled to an honest budget."

The budget dispute has resulted in some strange twists.

Quinn proposed borrowing $2.3 billion for government pension systems, freeing up cash to spend elsewhere in the budget. But when legislators wouldn't go along with a tax increase, he worked to block the borrowing plan to pressure lawmakers to keep working on other budget solutions.

But the budget that lawmakers sent to Quinn was flatly opposed by Republicans and criticized by most Democrats as inadequate. Yet both Republicans and Democrats now may wind up fighting to override Quinn's veto of this unpopular budget.

Cullerton spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon said an override is necessary because the state needs some sort of budget in place and that's the only one possible at the moment.

"I think the Senate president is trying to take the most pragmatic approach he can right now," she said.


The bill is SB1197.


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