Lawmakers optimistic about budget framework

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The Illinois General Assembly. | AP file photo

Lawmakers are poised to introduce a budget on Wednesday that would make major cuts to pensions and spend nearly $38.5 billion — including cuts to the state’s Department of Corrections and the Department of Human Services, according to budget documents obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.

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.

But there’s a fear he may change his mind. The Legislative Black Caucus spelled that out clearly in a legislative update posted to their Facebook page on Tuesday.

Sources said the governor has been very involved in budget talks but has been publicly quiet. He also hasn’t appeared in a series of legislative leaders meetings and hasn’t answered reporters’ questions since May 23.

Discussions are still ongoing, but the budget framework does not yet include capital funding for the embattled Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy, a focal point for Rauner’s administration and re-election campaign, according to a source with close knowledge of the budget framework.

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 documents show human service spending at $5.9 billion; $1.8 billion for colleges and universities; $1.7 billion for public safety and $1.2 billion for government services.

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.

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