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Senate Dems’ Budget Plan Advances In Springfield

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Illinois State Capitol

Illinois State Capitol buillding in Springfield (AP Photo)

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) – It’s unlikely to be the final budget, but the Senate Democratic budget proposal is moving through the legislature.

The Senate Democrats unveiled their ideas late last week, which they say cut discretionary spending by more than $300 million while paying what’s required to the Medicaid and pension systems. The proposal passed a legislative committee late Monday.

State Sen. Jeff Schoenberg (D-Evanston) was irritated no Senate Republicans voted for the measure in committee.

“It’s bad if we owe people money, but it’s also bad if we tap into some resources from the 700 special funds that exist to go out and get federal matching money, in order to pay this ginormous amount of Medicaid debt which we have,” Schoenberg said sarcastically of the Republicans’ position.

Republicans contend the proposal spends more than this year’s budget, as it takes $403 million from special funds to pay old bills.

State Sen. Pam Althoff (R-McHenry) said it’s a Republican principle to not spend more than is expected to come in during the fiscal year the tax increase expires, which is partially why she and her Republican colleagues voted against it.

“What we see before us now makes the support (of this proposal) impossible, as we cannot meet that principle,” she says.

Schoenberg said lawmakers have already made tough decisions, pointing to the decision to end free health care premiums for retired state workers. But he said that’s only the start.

“It’s like a track meet to get out of the capitol by some,” Schoenberg said. “The decisions only get harder. It’s time that we look for answers other than no.”

State Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) reminded Republicans who voted against the plan that the temporary tax increase is statutorily going away, regardless of where the state is financially. But she said her party’s budget plan puts Illinois on the right track.

“Unless we’re gonna take a vote, it’s going to go away. I think, by paying down our unpaid bills, we sort of have three stools here. I think this is gonna very well set us on a path towards being able to be in a position that future General Assemblies can decide what they want to do,” she said.

The House hasn’t yet released its proposal in bill form, but it reportedly spends less than the Senate Democrats’ plan.

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