Gov. Pat Quinn proposed an economical state budget Wednesday that partially addresses the state’s fiscal problems. The governor’s proposal envisions cuts to Medicaid worth $2.7 billion, and changes to the state’s pension obligation that will save taxpayers billions over time. He is handing both problems off to working groups to sort out the details, though he did articulate what the moving parts are for each problem, and he warned lawmakers not to plan to go home for the summer until Medicaid has been resolved.
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In the current fiscal year, it is expected that Illinois will spend $1.9 billion more on Medicaid than what was budgeted. Quinn says the state must re-evaluate who is eligible for Medicaid, what services will be covered, and what the state will pay providers for those services. Also, the governor said the state will save millions closing or consolidating 59 state facilities, including prisons, mental health centers, state police crime labs and dispatch centers and human services offices. “These 59 closures and consolidations are hard, but necessary. They impact every region in our state, but the need for lower spending in our budget gives us no choice,” he told lawmakers in Springfield and a statewide radio audience. The actual dollar amount in the budget is up from this year, which will be a point of contention in post-speech reaction. That’s because the governor commits an extra $1 billion to pension systems. Not counting that, the proposal comes in at $420 million less than the current budget.