State budget: Comptroller's office says workers that missed payday will get checks Thursday

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

Thousands of state workers who went without a paycheck Wednesday will get one hand-delivered Thursday, the comptroller's office says.

Carol Knowles, spokeswoman for Comptroller Dan Hynes, says his office was notified Wednesday night that Gov. Pat Quinn approved Senate Bill 1216 – the piece of the new budget affecting state workers and operations.

Quinn signed all three budget bills approved and sent to him earlier this evening by lawmakers.

That means the 5,000 to 6,000 workers who missed payday Wednesday will get their checks Thursday, Knowles said. All of those workers will receive hard-copy checks handed to them by their agencies, even those who normally receive direct deposit.

Knowles said that's quicker than sending the checks electronically.

GateHouse News Service State Capitol Bureau

9:15 p.m.: Quinn says he'll sign budget as soon as he gets it

Gov. Pat Quinn said tonight he's proud of the work he and lawmakers did on a new state budget, saying he'll sign it soon to give state government an assurance it will move forward.

But uncertainty will continue for a little while longer for state workers and service providers.

Quinn, at a news conference after lawmakers sent him a budget, acknowledged the plan lawmakers sent him still has a spending hole of as much as $5 billion. He said he plans to sign it as soon as he gets it, which could be later tonight or tomorrow.

Quinn and his staff said state workers who missed paychecks Wednesday would get paid as "quickly as possible." That could mean later in the day Thursday, if Quinn signs the budget and paperwork is able to be processed quickly as planned by Comptroller Dan Hynes' office.

Quinn said layoff notices and furloughs for state workers will proceed but he'll try to negotiate concessions with unions to minimize their impact. The governor has called for 2,600 layoffs and wouldn't say whether more could be needed.

He also said service providers will have to join in the "shared sacrifice" that state government is going through but did not offer details on when they could get their money or what kind of cuts they face. This budget includes about a 14 percent drop in funding for providers from last year's levels.

The governor said he will continue to push for an income tax increase and work hard to manage the money the state now has to avoid disruptions in government.

"This budget tonight is the best we can do to get our work done," Quinn said.

GateHouse News Service State Capitol Bureau

8 p.m.: Legislature approves budget

In quick fashion after weeks of delay, state lawmakers approved a new state budget tonight that keeps government operating but pushes back serious financial questions until later in the year.

The Senate, in rapid-fire succession, followed the House's lead and easily approved three budget bills – one to authorize pension borrowing to pay down other bills, one to keep operations going and one to implement the budget lawmakers approved. That last bill includes requiring lawmakers to take 12 unpaid furlough days this year.

Lawmakers acknowledged what they were sending Gov. Pat Quinn doesn't add up to a full-year, fully funded plan but at least keeps government going and gives him great authority to make the budget work for the next few months.

"It does avoid meltdown," said Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont. "This is the best of a number of bad solutions that's before us."

But critics said it simply pushes off tough decisions now and makes the current problems even bigger down the road.

"This isn't even a Band-Aid," said Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington. "This is something that we should defeat today and come back tomorrow."

Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, predicted lawmakers would be asked again to approve an income tax increase in January, when fewer votes are needed for approval and the state has had more time to review how the budget is working.

"We're doing this because we have to do it, but it's wrong to do it," Cullerton said.

The measures – Senate Bills 1292, 1216 and 1912 – now head to Quinn, who helped negotiate them.

GateHouse News Service State Capitol Bureau

7:15 p.m.: House approves final piece of budget, Senate votes next

A final piece of the budget has cleared the House, making a new budget by later tonight closer to reality.

The House voted 114-0 tonight for Senate Bill 1912, which authorizes spending in various areas of government – known as a budget implementation bill.

The measure, among other things, gives the governor authority to order state agencies to make more than $1 billion in reserves, to set aside spending throughout the year. It also requires lawmakers to take 12 unpaid furlough days, following what Gov. Pat Quinn wants state employees to take.

Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, said the furlough days represent about a 5 percent pay cut. That, along with giving Quinn power to move money around at extraordinary levels, signals an understanding of the state's serious budget problems, he said.

"This is working in concert with the governor's office and giving him flexibility," Mautino said.

The budget measures now head to the Senate for consideration.

GateHouse News Service State Capitol Bureau

6:50 p.m.: House approves operations bill

A second piece of the legislature's makeshift budget plan has cleared a major hurdle.

The House voted 90-22 tonight for Senate Bill 1216, which includes billions of dollars of spending to keep state operations going and ensure state workers and service providers get paid.

It includes enough funding to ensure providers get about 86 percent of the funding they received last year - a cut, but not the deep slashing seen in a budget approved by lawmakers several weeks ago that offered 50 percent funding.

House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, said the plan gives Gov. Pat Quinn extreme flexibility to shift money around to cover shortfalls, but made clear it doesn't cover all the spending problems.

"There will be cuts," Currie said. "There is no way the governor can manage this budget without significant cuts."

Rep. Bill Black, R-Danville, criticized his colleagues for supporting a spending plan where it's not clear what spending cuts the governor will have to make and what financial decisions will have to be made in coming months.

"We should all be ashamed at what we're doing here tonight at the last minute," Black said.

The measure now heads to the Senate, while the House continues voting on other budget pieces.

GateHouse News Service State Capitol Bureau

6:10 p.m.: House approves first piece of budget plan

With pressure high for a solution, state lawmakers are moving ahead with a budget plan that pushes back many important spending questions to future months.

The House is voting on several pieces of a budget agreement hashed out by Gov. Pat Quinn and legislative leaders over the last two days.

The first piece of that plan, Senate Bill 1292, calls for the state to borrow nearly $3.5 billion as a key part of filling a huge spending hole. It would take the borrowed money and put that into the state's pension funds, freeing up other cash to be spent on other pressing needs.

Lawmakers said more than $2.2 billion would go to reducing severe cuts faced by social service providers. The rest would be left up to the governor to decide where it should best be spent.

The borrowing would then be paid back in level amounts over the next five years, adding about $800 million a year in extra costs that will need to be dealt with starting next year.

The House voted 88-24 for the measure tonight. It needed 71 votes to pass.

Both Republicans and Democrats say it's not an ideal solution but better than other possibilities, such as increasing taxes or making even deeper spending cuts.

"I think now this is one of the only cards we have still left on the table," said Rep. Kevin McCarthy, D-Orland Park. "I think it's a wise move."

Critics said it was pushing off tough decisions to the future and not fixing the short-term problem by still leaving a hole to be filled somehow later in the year.

"This will not balance the budget. Let's not kid ourselves. This is nothing more than smoke and mirrors," said Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo.

Other pieces of the budget agreement are expected to be voted on next in the House and then would go to the Senate for approval. Lawmakers hope to have the entire package approved tonight.

GateHouse News Service State Capitol Bureau

1:25 p.m.: House Republican leader says tentative budget deal reached

Lawmakers moved closer today to an agreement on a new state budget, with one leader saying he and others have reached a tentative deal.

House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, said after a two-hour meeting with Gov. Pat Quinn that the four legislative leaders will now go back to their party caucuses to see if there's enough support for the plan.

Cross did not provide many details but said the package involves three bills - a spending bill, a bill to borrow money and a third to implement the new budget. He expects there to be Republican support for what has been hashed out but says that still needs to be discussed.

"They aren't looking for a shutdown in government," Cross said of House Republicans after the meeting. "We're pleased that we don't have a tax hike and we're going to continue to talk about reforms. But we also need some stability and certainty in state government."

Cross said he expects a deal could be voted on this afternoon or tonight if rank-and-file lawmakers are agreeable.

"I think we'll have a little more finality in the next few hours," Cross said.

Other leaders, including Quinn, did not talk to reporters after the meeting.

GateHouse News Service State Capitol Bureau

11:45 a.m.: Leaders meet to discuss budget

Legislative leaders are back at work this morning on a new state budget, with time running short before real chaos begins for state government spending.

The four leaders headed behind the closed doors of Gov. Pat Quinn's office this morning to talk more details on a spending agreement, 15 days after the budget year started.

Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said leaders worked yesterday until they thought they had a general agreement on a budget and were meeting today to hash out the final details.

Cullerton said lawmakers need to have a budget today because the first deadline for state workers to be paid has arrived.

"We're in a good position to put together a budget so people get paid," Cullerton told reporters on his way into the meeting.

Cullerton said leaders expect to talk about budget details with their caucuses this afternoon. He predicted his Senate Democrats would be disappointed by a budget that doesn't include an income tax increase, which the Senate approved but has stalled in the House.

Cullerton also deflected criticism that some lawmakers - including himself - traveled to St. Louis last night for Major League Baseball's All-Star Game. He said leaders met with the governor last night and then his staff started drafting budget legislation to be considered today.

"People could have been here at a restaurant watching it on television or actually there if they had a ticket, so it doesn't bother me," Cullerton said.

GateHouse News Service State Capitol Bureau