Quinn: `Most difficult` budget he's ever submitted for Illinois - Boston News, Weather, Sports | FOX 25 | MyFoxBoston

Quinn: `Most difficult` budget he's ever submitted for Illinois

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Gov. Pat Quinn said Wednesday that he submitted the "most difficult" budget he's ever had to since the Chicago democrat took office.

The $62.4 billion budget is said to involve no new taxes or fees, but should highlight many controversial issues in the state, including pension debt and health care reforms.

Illinois has almost $10 billion in debt, despite the 2011 income tax increase that brought in nearly $15 billion.

The governor also said spending levels for the budget in 2014 fiscal year is the lowest since 2008.

Check out the full copy of Gov. Quinn's Budget Address for Fiscal Year 2014.

Pensions, pensions, pensions! Quinn said Wednesday that government employee pension and retirement costs have gobbled up every penny brought in by that income tax increase.

In 2008, pensions took about 6% of the budget. They'll consume about 20% in the fiscal year that begins July 1. Quinn is still calling for a reduction in those costs, even though the state's powerful public employee unions have blocked any and all reform efforts.

One result is that Quinn's proposing to cut $278 million from elementary schools and high schools, which is sure to increase budget pressure on suburban systems - not to mention the Chicago Public Schools.

Mayor Emanuel's team is preparing to close and consolidate CPS schools and to raise the average class size to 30 students per teacher.

In his budget address, Quinn told lawmakers Wednesday, "It's time for you to legislate," and issued a direct challenge to them, to approve pension legislation immediately.

Attempts at overhaul on the unfunded pension liability have failed repeatedly, though there are currently several bills pending. He said lawmakers' inaction on the pension crisis has squeezed out spending on other services and departments, including education (about $440 million).

SEE: Gov. Quinn`s budget includes deep education cuts

Illinois' pension problem tops nearly $100 billion.

Quinn said even though the proposed budget makes tough cuts to education he's preserving a few areas, like early childhood education and some college scholarships.

He said early childhood development is crucial as is the Illinois Monetary Award Program, or MAP grant program.

The governor believes access to higher education is fundamental to a student's earning potential.

Quinn touted a recent contract agreement with Illinois' largest union as one way his administration has saved money, including $900 million in health care costs.

He called the agreement "unprecedented" among his gubernatorial predecessors, and a "landmark" agreement.

The governor's administration and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 reached a tentative agreement last week. They reached a three-year contract after negotiating for 15 months.

The proposal requires state workers to pay more toward health care and requires retirees to pay health insurance premiums for the first time. All that will add up to the $900 million savings over three years.

Quinn also mentioned a proposal that would establish regulations for high-volume gas and oil drilling is a "jobs bill."

The Chicago democrat supports a measure that lawmakers introduced last month. It was crafted with the help of the industry and some environmental groups.

Fracking uses high-pressure mixtures of water, sand or gravel and chemicals to crack open rock formations and release oil and gas. The industry is looking at southern Illinois' New Albany shale. But opponents say Quinn should support a moratorium on high-volume hydraulic fracturing because more studies are needed on pollution and health risks.

The bill is HB2615.

Quinn said in his address that he's going to issue an executive order later this week to eliminate 75 state boards and commissions that he said are redundant. He believes the eliminations will save the state money.

The governor said that any state revenue from gambling should go toward education, and any new gambling legislation must have ethical protections.

Quinn has vetoed two gambling expansions that lawmakers have sent him. Both bills proposed nearly half a dozen new casinos in the state, including one in Chicago.

The Chicago democrat is calling for a ban on contributions from the gambling industry, but lawmakers haven't been thrilled about it.

The Senate's executive committee was scheduled to look at another possible gambling expansion later Wednesday.

Quinn also proposed a budget that includes money for beefing up public safety.

He said there is more money for mental health services and new cadet classes for the Illinois State Police. Quinn said the budget is also focused on anti-violence strategies.

He said those are a few bright spots in an otherwise bleak outlook for the state.

Quinn also called on lawmakers to end corporate tax loopholes to help pay down the state's massive backlog of unpaid bills.

The Illinois governor said he wants legislation in the next 12 weeks. He mentioned three specifics, including suspending the foreign dividend corporate loophole. He estimates they all together cost the state about $445 million each year.

Quinn did not specifically details of his plan during the roughly half-hour address. But his aides said the proposed budget attempts to pay down roughly $2 billion. The backlog is roughly $9 billion.

The governor said his budget plans to correct previous years when bills weren't paid in full.

Quinn also said his proposed budget includes more money for veterans' services.

The democrat said it is the state's duty to take care of veterans, and it's an area the state can't afford to cut.

Quinn said the budget includes increased funding for Illinois Veterans' Homes, which are essentially nursing homes for veterans. The state has four including in LaSalle, Quincy and Manteno. There are plans to build another one in the Chicago area. The homes serve more than 900 veterans.

The governor said the increase covers higher staffing requirements outlined in the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act.

Quinn also saluted the late Dawn Clark Netsch was one of Illinois' greatest citizens.

He took a moment to salute the former comptroller, who helped rewrite the state's constitution. She died this week at age 86.

SEE: Trailblazing Illinois politician Dawn Clark Netsch dies at 86

Quinn said Netsch was a "straight shooter," who always told the people of Illinois what they needed to know.

She was the first woman to get the Democratic nomination for governor in the state.

Netsch revealed publicly a few weeks ago that she had Lou Gehrig's disease. She died at home on Tuesday.

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