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Quinn Makes Minor Changes To $35.7B Budget

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Illinois State Capitol

Illinois State Capitol buillding in Springfield (AP Photo)

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CHICAGO (AP) – Gov. Pat Quinn on Monday largely approved a 2015 state budget he has criticized as “incomplete,” setting off another back-and-forth with his Republican rival over who is best qualified to fix Illinois’ huge financial problems.

The Chicago Democrat cut $250 million for renovations to the state Capitol from the $35.7 billion spending plan, saying the state can’t afford to move forward with improvements this year. The project drew criticism for its hefty price tag last year, and Quinn had said he would freeze future funding. He also said he has directed state agencies to make additional cuts, including selling half the state’s 21 airplanes.

Quinn had already characterized the budget as incomplete because it doesn’t include enough revenue to cover expenses. He wanted to extend Illinois’ temporary income tax increase, which rolls back in January, creating an estimated loss of $1.8 billion in revenue. Lawmakers facing re-election this fall rejected the idea, but left open the possibility they could return to Springfield post-election and approve it.

“While legislators didn’t do their job on the budget, I will continue to do mine,” Quinn said in a statement. “Reducing the budget and identifying additional efficiencies will help minimize the impact of cuts in vital services and maintain our hard-won fiscal gains. While there’s more work to do, we must ensure the state lives within its means.”

Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner ripped Quinn, saying under his leadership the state has seen higher taxes and big cuts to school funding.

“Pat Quinn broke his promise on taxes, and his only goal is to permanently take more money out of every hard-working Illinoisans’ paycheck – and this broken budget is the result,” Rauner said in a statement.

Quinn’s campaign, meanwhile, has attacked Rauner for not putting forward a budget plan of his own.

The budget for the fiscal year that begins Tuesday keeps funding for schools flat but doesn’t allocate enough money to cover increased expenses. Republicans have called it “gimmicky” because it uses special funds for day-to-day operations and banks on future increases in revenue that may not materialize.

If the funds aren’t found, lawmakers will have to cut at least $4.4 billion in expenses, forcing layoffs, facility closures and massive program cuts.

Democratic Senate President John Cullerton has said it’s likely legislators will return after the election and approve either the tax increase extension or other revenue. On Monday, Cullerton spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon said the budget “secures funding for key priorities, but there will be more tough choices for fiscal progress in the future.”

Lawmakers may override Quinn’s veto of the money for Capitol renovations with a three-fifths majority vote in both chambers.

Quinn on Monday also touted other cuts he has ordered, including eliminating 80 paid parking spaces for state employees who work downtown — an annual savings of about $100,000 and reducing lease costs for state buildings by about $55 million.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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