Prison workers and health care coverage will bear the brunt of $1 billion in budget cuts formally announced by Gov. Pat Quinn on Friday. At the same time, the administration left unanswered a number of questions that have swirled around the state's budget problems, including whether state facilities will close and if some prison inmates will be released early to reduce costs.
Prison workers and health care coverage will bear the brunt of $1 billion in budget cuts formally announced by Gov. Pat Quinn on Friday.
At the same time, the administration left unanswered a number of questions that have swirled around the state's budget problems, including whether state facilities will close and if some prison inmates will be released early to reduce costs.
Many of the cuts outlined by Quinn Friday have been raised before as necessary to close a multi-billion gap between revenue and spending in the state budget. The administration has previously said 2,600 state jobs must be eliminated, that workers must take 12 unpaid days off and that state grants to human service organizations would be reduced.
Quinn said he is simply doing the bidding of state lawmakers who demanded that state spending be reined in during the national recession.
"We are implementing what some legislators screamed to the heavens for, cut, cut, cut," Quinn said.
But as he has before, Quinn said cutting the budget alone is not the solution to the state's financial problems. The solution, he said, is an income tax increase which he has championed for months and which he will again lobby for when lawmakers return to Springfield in October for the veto session.
"I do think we need more money," Quinn said. "We have to go to the General Assembly and say we made all of these cuts, but we have to deal with the fiscal reality that we have a revenue shortfall to pay our bills.
Some lawmakers have already come to that conclusion.
"There are painful reductions and cuts in this budget," said Sen. Donne Trotter, D-Chicago. "If (lawmakers) haven't been nudged enough this should be the kick, the wake-up call. There are some hurtful things here."
Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield, said it appears to him the cuts were also things discussed before. That doesn't mean he likes them.
"There's no question (Quinn) is setting the tone for more revenues," Bomke said. "I can't understand more cutbacks and layoffs at a time the economy is in the situation it is in."
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 issued a statement decrying the cuts. AFSCME is the largest state employee union.
"These cuts will hurt every Illinois resident," Executive Director Henry Bayer said in a written statement. "The fault for these terrible cuts belongs to the governor and every legislator who supported an irresponsible budget. Every Illinoisan must demand that lawmakers and the governor renounce these damaging cuts, commit to raising new revenue, and return to the Capitol as soon as necessary to fix this broken budget."
Quinn Chief of Staff Jerome Stermer said the union could greatly reduce the need for layoffs and furloughs by giving up pay raises scheduled for this year. Union wage hikes this budget year are worth $125 million, Stermer said.
"There is always the option of trading the layoffs for a salary freeze," Stermer said.
AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall said in a written statement that the state has not formally approached the union about either a wage freeze or furloughs.
"We have an obligation to listen to any proposed change to the contract and we are prepared to do so, but they've made no request to us so far," Lindall said.
Stermer said additional details about furloughs will be released in a few days. The administration wants workers to take 12 unpaid days off during this budget year, but Stermer said "front line" employees will be exempt because finding substitutes for them would cost the state overtime expenses. He did not define front line employee.
State workers may also see delays in payment for their health care. The administration acknowledges that group insurance costs for workers, dependents and retirees is short of needs by $600 million.
Stermer was vague about the future of the Department of Corrections. More than 1,000 jobs are being chopped. Materials released by the administration Friday did not show a prison closing, although Stermer said "one small facility not very well used might be closed." He said there will be "some facility shrinking" although he would not elaborate if that means early release of some inmates.
Doug Finke can be reached at (217) 788-1527 or
A look at highlights of budget cuts announced Friday by Gov. Pat Quinn's administration, according to briefings provided by the administration. More detail on how state agencies fared in the cuts can be found at http://budget.illinois.gov/:
An estimated 2,552 state job layoffs, including more than 1,000 from the prison system.
12 furlough days for all workers but those on the frontlines of government service.
A $1.4 billion deficit remaining even after Quinn used more than $3 billion in discretionary money to spare and minimize cuts.
Unpaid bills approaching $4 billion, bringing the total deficit to about $5.5 billion.
A $225 million shortage in college scholarship funding.
$600 million cuts in both the Medicaid program and group health insurance program for state workers and retirees.
Fewer inmates at state prisons, although the number to be released early was not announced. One small facility could be closed.
$250 million in cuts to state grants, with details on the impact to many providers yet to come.
Millions of dollars in cuts to funding for the court system, Illinois Arts Council, addiction treatment, adoption and other programs.
$150 million restored in education cuts, mostly for early education, but a $145 million hole remains.