[This post has been bumped up to Wednesday from Tuesday night for visibility purposes.]
Lawmakers have entered what could be the final stages of negotiating a budget that would limit state spending to $38.5 billion by cutting funding for prisons and human services and buying out some state pensioners, according to budget documents obtained by the Tribune. […]
The budget blueprint envisions spending $5.9 billion on human services, $1.8 billion on colleges and universities, $1.7 billion on public safety and $1.2 billion on government services, the documents show. A new $25 million scholarship program would be created to encourage students to attend school in Illinois. Universities would be asked to match it. Early childhood education and K-12 schools would get a total of $8.4 billion, which represents an increase of $50 million for early childhood education and $350 million for primary and secondary schools — the yearly increase that was envisioned in a new education funding formula that was enacted last year.
The plan lays out spending $20.4 billion on pensions, debt payments, Medicaid and health insurance for state workers — all expenses over which lawmakers have little control.
It would make $124 million in cuts at state agencies, including $47 million from both the Department of Corrections and the Department of Human Services. And pension costs would go down by $444 million, largely due to two new “buyout” plans that were not explained in the outline documents.
With fingers crossed, lawmakers say they’re hoping to pass the budget framework entirely as soon as Thursday morning. And sources said Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration is on board with the proposal, so far. […]
According to the budget document, budget reductions include $124 million to state agencies, including nearly $47 million each for the Departments of Corrections and the for social services and $55 million less for the Department of Juvenile Justice.
Pension costs would drop by nearly $445 million. The documents attribute $41 million of that to an “inactive buyout,” which would include a group of workers who haven’t reached retirement. Another $22 million would be cut by limiting salary spiking to 3 percent. […]
According to a budget framework, the budget does not include a shift of the normal cost of employee pensions to the local employer and removing the state group health insurance program from collective bargaining; or eliminating health insurance subsidies for retired teachers. […]
The framework includes an additional $350 million for evidence based funding for school districts; an additional $50 million for early childhood; an increase of 2 percent to universities and community colleges; $25 million for a new tuition grant program that will provide additional tuition assistance to try to stem the tide of students fleeing Illinois; a $0.50 wage increase for Direct Service Providers; and an increase in rates to child providers by 4.26 percent.
Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, also said “there are several decisions that are yet to be made by the leaders” before the final touches can be placed on the budget. He said the issues include how to handle certain infrastructure projects like replacement of the Illinois Veterans’ Home in Quincy and funding for the Obama presidential library in Chicago.
One thing that is not on the table is an expansive capital construction plan that would involve issuing bonds and finding a new revenue source to pay for them.
“We’re not talking about raising gasoline taxes or (imposing) a vehicle mileage tax,” said Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, one of the budget negotiators.
Lawmakers will try to boost enrollment at Illinois’ public universities via a new program (Senate Bill 2927) on the fast track that would create a merit-based “AIM HIGH” scholarship available to Illinois residents with qualifying grade point averages and incomes. Regional schools like Southern Illinois University and Western Illinois University have seen steep enrollment declines that administrators attribute to higher education funding cuts over the years, and particularly during the recent years-long budget stalemate.
Such spending could trigger nips and tucks in spending on other priorities.
The budget is not predicated proceeds from an expansion of gambling, after opposition from the city of Chicago helped to fell a massive gambling expansion package that would allow it and five other locations to host casinos. […]
While there’s a general sense of optimism in Springfield, there is a constant undercurrent of unease: Democrats doubting that under pressure from conservatives or with an eye toward November’s election Rauner will not sign a deal into law, Republicans who fear that Democrats will use the levers of legislative power to pull a fast one and will tuck a new, expensive program into a budget bill at the last minute.
Subscribers will have more tomorrow.