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Gov. Quinn’s budget hits Medicaid, school transportation funding

Gov. PQuinn | Sun-Times Library

Gov. Pat Quinn | Sun-Times Library

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Updated: July 5, 2011 11:12AM

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Quinn enacted a $32.9 billion state budget late Thursday but cut the spending package state lawmakers sent to him by $712.5 million, targeting schools and hospitals that serve low-income patients.

“With these reductions, I am implementing smart efficiencies that support Illinois on its continuing path to fiscal and economic recovery,” Quinn said in a prepared statement announcing his move.

The bulk of the governor’s cuts came from areas that Quinn said had been “double appropriated” in the budget package, with aides describing that as programs that had been mistakenly funded twice. That total amounted to $336 million.

Hospitals that serve the poor would get hit under Quinn’s proposed changes by seeing state Medicaid reimbursements cut by $276 million, though his administration emphasized inner-city “safety-net” medical centers aren’t affected by the move.

The governor failed to persuade lawmakers to cut Medicaid reimbursements rates during the spring, so his cut in Medicaid spending could have the effect of simply pushing those health-care bills off to the 2012-2013 budget year, meaning hospitals would have to wait to be paid even longer.

A spokesman for Quinn budget director David Vaught said the Medicaid spending reduction would not have an impact on Stroger Hospital, and he stressed that the cut would not cause any hospital in Illinois to close.

The governor also took an ax to $89 million in funding that would have reimbursed suburban and Downstate school districts for their transportation costs.

“School transportation by its nature is local function for parents and local school districts,” Vaught said. “They can get their kids to school.”

Also on the education front, Quinn cut another $11.3 million in “bureaucracy costs” by trimming salaries for regional school superintendents.

“Line by line, I have carefully examined the budget passed by the General Assembly and identified areas for improvement and reduction,” Quinn said. “I also re-prioritized government spending to protect our state’s core principles.”

Quinn’s spending reductions could be reversed by the Democratic-led House and Senate by simple majority votes, rather than the three-fifths margin required of non-budgetary vetoes.

The governor’s move goes in the opposite direction of Senate Democrats, who had sought to increase spending in the budget package by more than $400 million but saw that approach shot down by a bi-partisan House coalition.

One of that caucus’ top budget people, Sen. Dan Kotowski (D-Park Ridge), said he was still digesting the particulars of Quinn’s spending reductions but did not automatically rule them out.

“We’re supportive of the governor’s efforts to cut spending and reduce expenses in the state to save taxpayers money. We just need to look at these and evaluate these cuts,” Kotowski said.

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