Legislature's budget needs work, Quinn says

DOUG FINKE

SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Pat Quinn said the state budget approved by lawmakers late Tuesday “clearly needs more work,” but he wouldn’t say what he’ll do to improve it.

At a news conference Wednesday, Quinn again criticized lawmakers for cutting spending on education and human services.

“I don’t think anybody who looks at it would say they would be happy with the investment in education,” Quinn said, referring to cuts to general state aid, early childhood programs and state scholarships.  “Our legislators, in some ways, didn’t do their job.”

Exactly what Quinn plans to do about it, he didn’t say.

“I think we’ll take a look at what ultimately arrives on my desk and see how we can repair it as best we can,” Quinn said.

As Quinn himself pointed out, though, he can’t add money to education or other programs he thinks are being shortchanged.  The governor is allowed only to make reductions.

Quinn could veto the entire budget, but that would bring Senate Republicans to the bargaining table,  and they are demanding even deeper spending cuts.  Quinn could also sign the legislature’s budget and hope to persuade lawmakers to increase spending on some items during this fall’s veto session.

Quinn also said a last-minute Senate Democrat maneuver to try to increase some spending was an appropriate thing to do, although it didn’t pay off.

At the last minute, Democrats added about $430 million in operations spending to a capital bill.  The money would restore money cut from general state aid to schools and the Monetary Award Program for college scholarships and provide additional funds to a couple of dozen human services programs.

The House refused to consider the bill before adjourning.  Instead, House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said he wanted a conference committee of representatives and senators to work out a solution over the summer.

Quinn defended his original budget proposal as a good spending blueprint.  However, members of both the House and Senate said Quinn’s plan wasn’t balanced and they paid little attention to it.

The budget that was approved, which was drafted in the House, calls for spending nearly $2 billion less than Quinn wanted.

“There were several radical cuts to education and other important things like health care and public safety,” Quinn said.  “That’s not at all what the people of Illinois want.”

Doug Finke can be reached at (217) 788-1527.