Illinois House, Senate Pursue Separate Illinois Budget Plans

(Springfield, IL) — The differences between Illinois’ 2011 budget and the still-to-be crafted 2012 budget are becoming more apparent each day.

Lawmakers in the House and Senate are working on their own versions of a spending plan, complete with revenue projections and line-by-line appropriations. It’s not clear which chamber will set the final total for a state budget, and that may not become clear for a while.

This week, Senate Republicans said they are hoping to work with the Democrats who control the upper chamber in Springfield to figure out how to spend a little more than $34 billion. The House budget figure is just above $33 billion. Gov. Pat Quinn wants to spend $35 billion next year.

Senate GOP budget point man State Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine, said just having a conversation about spending and different numbers is a break from the past.

“This process feels a little different,” he said. “We’ve got some new players involved from years past, so I don’t know that the past is predictive of how this year is going to go.”

Lawmakers have sent Quinn lump sum budgets in each of the past two years. The governor has then decided where to spend the money, and more to the point, where not to spend the money.

The 2012 budget — whatever the final price tag is — likely will be much smaller than what the governor wants. Murphy said the governor is going to have to deal with it.

“The governor can line-item reduce spending, he can’t increase it. … He can veto the whole budget and have us down here all summer,” Murphy said. “But then he’s going to need a super-majority to pass the budget. I would frankly relish the idea of having a bigger impact on the budget in June or July than we would have in May.”

A super-majority vote would require GOP support in both the House and Senate.

Murphy said there have been talks between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, but not between the Senate and the House.

State Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, is leading the revenue process in the House. He said lawmakers and the governor need to know how this year’s budget process is different.

“I want people to understand that I am serious about revenue projections and the appropriation process,” he said.

Bradley said he has not yet spoken to his counterparts in the Senate. Both chambers are working toward the May 31 adjournment deadline.

Quinn’s budget office says they too are waiting for the process to move forward.  Kelly Kraft, Quinn’s budget spokeswoman, said the governor’s office hopes to use the next month or so to try and convince lawmakers not to close the door on borrowing.

“We continue to work with legislators and are hopeful they will do the right thing, which is to pay people for work provided and not leave hundreds of millions of dollars in federal matching dollars on the table,” said Kraft.

Lawmakers have scheduled a spring break for later this month.  The House and Senate are due to return to the Capitol, at least five days a week, through May as legislators push toward a budget agreement.

Benjamin Yount, Illinois Statehouse News

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