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Quinn Confirms Need For Major Cuts, Possible Layoffs

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Gov. Pat Quinn

Gov. Pat Quinn says a bill that would dramatically expand casino gambling in Illinois is “excessive.” (Credit: CBS)

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UPDATED: 9/6/11 5:59 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — Thousands of state employees could be facing the prospect of layoffs as Gov. Pat Quinn seeks to make “reductions” to deal with a massive budget deficit.

As CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker reports, Quinn confirmed Tuesday that he plans major spending cuts, although he would not provide details about how many employees could lose their jobs or what state facilities might be closed.

But asked if thousands of state workers could be laid off, Quinn said “we have to do what we have to do.”

State lawmakers and the state’s labor unions said they haven’t been given information about Quinn’s plan either.

The state’s offices in Bronzeville is where mothers get medical services for their children, caseworkers pass out food vouchers to families, or drug and alcohol patients meet with counselors.

It’s an important facility in the community, so when residents hear talk of cutting case workers, there’s anger.

“They cutting the wrong thing. They cutting something that we need as opposed to what they want,” state aid recipient Herman Jackson said.

The threat to case workers is just the beginning.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports, the shortfall amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars. According to a Chicago Tribune report, Quinn plans to issue layoff notices to thousands of state workers as well as close several state facilities, including a prison, a juvenile detention center, and homes for mentally ill.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger Reports

“The bottom line is that the money isn’t there to pay for a full fiscal year unless reductions are made,” Quinn said Tuesday.

The governor accused lawmakers of not budgeting enough money and forcing him to make drastic cuts. But some lawmakers called the move a political ploy.

“I have to abide by the will of the General Assembly,” Quinn said. “They passed a budget that requires reductions, and therefore we’ll have to carry those reductions out.”

The General Assembly approved a $33.9 billion state budget this year, about $1.5 billion less money than Quinn requested.

A spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan said Tuesday that he had no knowledge of any cuts, or if “any of that will happen.”

Republican lawmakers said Quinn’s threat appears to be a scare tactic.

“That number, I’m sure, is inflated for dramatic affect by the governor,” said State Sen. Matt Murphy (R-Palatine). “What he may be trying to do here is use political pressure to get more support for his $9 billion borrowing plan, which we think is unconscionable.”

Murphy said most lawmakers don’t support a borrowing plan, but they aren’t opposed to some kind of cuts.

State Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) – who ran against Quinn last year and campaigned for a 10 percent across-the-board spending cut – said Quinn should instead push for structural changes.

“What he should be doing is reorganizing our Medicaid system, reducing
costs to schools … so the lion’s share of state spending can be dealt with, without using our state employees as pawns,” said Brady.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, the state’s largest public employee union, said it has received no word that the governor will follow through with this threat.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Alex Degman Reports

But AFSCME Council 31 spokesman Anders Lindall said Quinn is creating a crisis that doesn’t exist, arguing there’s enough money now to cover state operations.

“What we have is a budget problem that needs a solution,” said Lindall. “But provoking a crisis that threatens to slash needed services and throw thousands of people out of work only compounds the problem. It doesn’t solve anything.”

AFSCME said it made major concessions on pay and health care benefits in return for an agreement for the governor that there would be no job cuts or state facility closures this year.

But Quinn said he’s no longer bound to that agreement because state spending is “subject to appropriation” and lawmakers did not appropriate enough money to run the state for a full fiscal year without major cuts.

AFSCME rejected that claim, saying its deal with Quinn is legally binding and they’re prepared to go to court to prevent layoffs.

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