Illinois House Version of Illinois Budget Speeds to Conclusion

(Springfield, IL) — Illinois Budget plans in the Illinois House for higher education, public safety and general services are headed for full debate this week, while agreements on elementary and high school education and human services are close to a resolution.

“The House will have the budget done by next week,” state Rep. Luis Arroyo, D-Chicago, said.

The chamber set last Friday as the informal deadline to finalize detailed numbers for its estimated $33.2 billion total budget for next fiscal year.

State Rep. Kenneth Dunkin, D-Chicago, who heads the budget committee on higher education, said his group made it under the House’s higher education budget goal of $2.1 billion by targeting for-profit schools through the state’s monetary award program, or MAP.

“We had to make cuts, and the committee decided that cuts towards for-profit schools were far easier than cuts to the opposite (not-for-profit schools),” said Dunkin, who hoped the funds might be brought back on the Senate side, which is dealing with a larger $34.3 billion total budget plan.

MAP funds were reduced by $17 million, which represents the largest cut for the higher education budget, Dunkin said.

General services also stayed in the black, making the largest cuts to those agencies that had a record of mismanagement based on audit reports, said state Rep. Fred Crespo, D-Streamwood, who chaired the general services appropriations committee. The agencies with records of mismanagement are Department of Revenue, Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and the Department of Central Management Services.

About 15 percent was cut across the board from fiscal year 2011 from the three agencies, said Crespo.

After spending hours debating individual line items, “…we realized we (couldn’t) keep nickel-diming this thing. We need to look at fundamentally how to make big cuts to really bring down that number,” Crespo said.

General services was allotted $1.2 billion in the House budget proposal.

Arroyo, charged with divvying up $1.6 billion for the public safety budget, didn’t want to release details yet, but said about 13 agencies that use general revenue funds have been decided and will be put to a vote this week.

For elementary and high school education, state Rep. William Davis, D-East Hazel Crest, expects to keep most spending flat, with most of the cuts coming from general state aid. As a result, school districts should expect 96 percent of a fully funded budget.

School transportation was the only line item that saw increased funding, Davis said.

“We left the table with something to give the Republicans to look at. I do not know if they will or will not agree with this idea. That wasn’t decided when we parted company,” said Davis, who emphasized that the budgeting process for $6.8 billion was still ongoing.

Head of Human Services Budget Committee state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, could not be reached for comment. Because human services makes up 50 percent of the state budget, it is expected to see the most cuts in order to come in less than its allotted $12 billion.

Despite the largest portions of the state budget still up in the air, Jim Nowlan, senior political science fellow at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, called the process on target for this time of the year.

“I don’t think it’s a cause for worry. The budget will be adopted at some point,” Nowlan said. “I don’t think it’s going to develop into a problem for the operation of the state.”

Melissa Leu, Illinois Statehouse News

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