The Senate, by a divided vote, approved of granting Quinn emergency
budget powers, instituting a sales tax holiday just before the
school year, and providing an amnesty period for tardy taxpayers.
The budget package also included proposals to front-load about $1.2
billion from a multiyear settlement with the tobacco industry;
institute 12 furlough days for lawmakers, constitutional officers
and other state officials; and extend the period to pay bills for
the next fiscal year from Aug. 31 to Dec. 31.
But one of the larger parts of the budget package has hit a speed
bump in the Illinois Senate.
A borrowing plan to bring in $4 billion that would go toward
funding public employee pensions never came to a vote on the Senate
Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said he did not bring
the proposal before the full Senate because his caucus did not have
the votes to pass the plan.
"Within our own caucus, we have overwhelming support, but you
need three-fifths (majority). We don't have all our Democrats
supporting it," he said.
In the Illinois Senate, Democrats make up 37 members of the
59-member chamber. The borrowing plan requires 36 votes for passage.
Lawmakers have struggled in recent years to make an annual
contribution to the state's public employee pension systems.
The Pew Center for the States recently reported that out of all
states' public employee pension systems, Illinois had the highest
Last year, both the Illinois House and Senate passed a similar
borrowing plan with bipartisan support in order to make the state's
But this year, Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno,
R-Lemont, said members of her caucus expressed concern on borrowing
and having to pay back the amount, plus $1 billion in interest.
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House Republican leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, said borrowing
billions to pay off the pensions is not in the best interests of
"I think borrowing $3.7 billion is bad. The fact that we're
leaving here without a tax increase, we're leaving here without more
borrowing is a good thing. I think the fact that we still haven't
paid our bills and we still have huge debt and we still have high
unemployment is not a good thing," he said.
The Illinois House passed the $4 billion borrowing plan earlier
this week by the minimum vote threshold.
Quinn called upon the Illinois Senate to pass the borrowing plan
on Wednesday, calling it the "fiscally responsible" move.
But Quinn's gubernatorial opponent in November's general
election, state Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, disagreed.
"We've been able to stave off more pension borrowing on the backs
of our children and grandchildren. Our efforts to defeat pension
borrowing at this point, I think, have helped work towards
stabilizing the state's fiscal crisis and budget," he said.
State senators could return to Springfield this summer to
considering the pension borrowing proposal.
Statehouse News; By KEVIN LEE]