Friday, June 26, 2009

Governor signs bill to refinance debt

By Bethany Jaeger
Gov. Pat Quinn enacted one type of revenue source for the next fiscal year’s budget, which starts July 1. But there’s no budget in place to spend it.

The governor signed SB 1609, allowing the state to refinance debt. According to House Democrats, the plan would take advantage of a 4 percent interest rate and save $600 million next fiscal year. It would save $237 million over the life of the bonds.

The bill has been tied to the legislature’s version of a bare bones budget, which has been dubbed the “50 percent budget” because it would fund human services at half the level proposed by the governor.

But Quinn’s spokeswoman Libby White said this afternoon: “There’s no link between the two. This was our bill that was a part of the governor’s original budget proposal.”

She added, “The governor’s not in favor of the legislature’s 50 percent budget and is fighting to get his [budget] passed.”

Quinn is still campaigning for a temporary income tax increase, although he’s modified his original proposal in hopes of winning more votes from Democrats and Republicans. So far, Republicans have remained united against a tax increase without other longer-term reforms. The legislature isn’t scheduled to return to the Capitol until Monday and Tuesday, leaving little time to approve a balanced budget before the fiscal year begins.

But what it will take to balance the budget is debatable, as the size of the deficit and the consequences of not having a spending plan in place by Wednesday has widely varied. Yet, Quinn repeatedly has said thousands of state workers could lose their jobs and services would have to be reduced in July without a budget in place.

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