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Senate Democrats’ spending plan offers deeper cuts than Quinn proposed

Updated: July 1, 2012 12:05PM

SPRINGFIELD — Senate Democrats on Friday outlined a spending plan that cuts deeper than Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget proposal, shaving about $250 million more from areas such as human services and public safety — but Republicans contended still more cuts were needed.

The plan assumes legislators will come to terms on big-ticket items such as a Medicaid package that plugs a $2.7 billion hole as well as facility closures.  Democratic budget leaders did not specify how those items would come together, although they did suggest a Medicaid solution was imminent.

“We’re feeling pretty confident at this point that we expect to have that,” said Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago).

Although spending on elementary and secondary education would remain at $6.75 billion — the same level outlined in the governor’s plan — human services, public safety and general services would be docked about $45 million, $157.5 million and $58.5 million, respectively.  The Democrats’ plan spends more on higher education than the governor’s by about $12.3 million.

“Nearly every agency is looking at cuts,” said Sen. Dan Kotowski (D-Park Ridge). “That’s unavoidable.”

However, a top Senate Republican was not convinced the Democrats’ math was correct, saying the amount of cuts to the state’s Medicaid program isn’t large enough and assumes new revenue from a $1 per pack cigarette tax increase.

“It’s the highest proposal of spending anywhere under this dome right now,” said Sen. Matt Murphy (R-Palatine).

On another budget front, the Senate voted to pay for a child-care program by diverting $73.6 million in federal dollars to the Department of Human Services, an initiative Quinn quickly signed into law late Friday afternoon.

The measure passed 46-0 just days after making it through the House by a 113-3 margin. 

The measure is a response to overuse of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds, which created the gap in a human services program that provides child health care to low-income families.

House Republicans blamed Quinn for the extra budget maneuvering, but Quinn’s office contended that funding the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program was mandated by federal law.

Compared to the House, the discussion on the Senate floor was shorter and much less contentious.

“We need to do this, we all know we need to do this,” said Sen. Carole Pankau (R-Itasca). “But it’s kind of interesting again for some of us who have been here a while that when we really, really, really need it, we can always find ways to move money around.”

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