Illinois Senate Democrats have presented their budget proposal. It spends the entire amount the state is expected to take in, $33.719 billion, but it budgets old bill payment. Democrats say they want to spend $317 million less than was spent in the current fiscal year on programs such as human services and public safety. State Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) says Illinois will be fiscally stable by the time the tax increase expires as lawmakers continue addressing the big issues.
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“It is this three-legged stool here to get us in that position,” she says. “It’s our unpaid bills, Medicaid reform and pension reform.” The budget counts on $2.7 billion in savings to the Medicaid program, and Republican State Sen. Matt Murphy (R-Palatine) says that makes the numbers fuzzy. “We’re only going to have $1.6 billion in cuts,” he says. “You have to add $1.1 billion more on the spending side.”
Murphy and other Senate Republicans say Democrats are spending more because they’re not counting some revenue sources as revenue. For example, the proposed Senate Democrat budget pays $1.3 billion in old bills -- $1 billion of which will go to Medicaid. The federal Medicaid match, which gives back 50 cents for every dollar spent, will result in an additional $500 million not part of the General Revenue Fund. With those and other numbers added, Murphy says the Democrats want to spend about $34.4 billion next year.
A spokesman for the Senate Democrats says Republicans are more interested in making it seem like the Democrats are spending more money than last year, than they are solving the Medicaid, pension and budget crises. He says up to $8 billion is available in dedicated funds outside the General Revenue Fund, and they want to take $403 million from said funds this year to help shore up Medicaid and pensions while paying overdue bills. The Senate Democrats propose paying the entire $5.1 billion pension payment in Fiscal Year 2013. Senators say they’ll try moving their budget proposal early next week. The Senate Democrats are so far the only caucus to release a proposal.