Gov. Pat Quinn said about 2,600 layoffs are needed to help reduce state spending by $1 billion. At the same time he outlined the cuts in Chicago Tuesday, Quinn also vetoed another portion of the state budget. He said the General Assembly sent him a spending plan that “just spends too much money.”
“I think the best way to operate with the budget that I was given by the General Assembly a week ago is to veto it in its entirety because it doesn't cut spending as it should,” he said in a Chicago news conference. He later added: “We're not playing tennis here. We're playing with people's lives.”
Quinn vetoed House Bill 2145, which authorized $3.8 billion in spending on state operations, because it didn't follow the principle of shared sacrifice, he said. “There were too many instances of entities getting the same budget they did the year before or a very modest reduction, where others are taking very painful cuts. I don't believe that that's fair, and I don't think the people, the taxpayers of Illinois think that's fair.”
Of his $1 billion in cuts, he proposed 12 furlough days, or unpaid days off, for all state employees, including unionized workers and those in the executive and legislative branches. The 2,600 layoffs would spread across all state agencies. He said the furlough days would save about $108 million. Without them, he would seek an additional 2,500 layoffs.
The list of cuts proposed by the governor also would include:
- $150 million - Moving Medicaid patients to managed care health plans so they have medical "homes" and reducing IllinoisCares Rx, a prescription drug program started by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
- $250 million - Reducing grants to local agencies, local governments and programs by 10 percent across most state agencies, except the Department of Veterans' Affairs.
- $175 million - Maintaining last year's funding levels for education, while preserving the investment needed to secure all federal stimulus dollars.
- $125 million - Laying off about 1,000 Department of Corrections employees and possibly closing some prisons (he previously mentioned letting non-violent criminal offenders out of jail early).
- $100 million - Requiring all state agencies to reserve some spending for an even rainier day.
- $25 million - Reducing spending in other state offices and departments not under the governor's control.
“We're all in this together,” Quinn said. “So whether you're the governor of Illinois or a member of the legislature or somewhere in the state bureaucracy, we have to cut costs, cut costs, cut costs.”
But a large chunk of the governor's cuts would require negotiations with public employee unions, which would mean reopening active labor contracts to implement furlough days and to reconsider pay raises scheduled for this year. Quinn said those raises account for about $125 million.
Anders Lindall, spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, said yesterday, “We have a duty to listen to anything that the administration proposes, and we've indicated a willingness to do that.” However, he added, furloughs have the same effect of service cuts, and layoffs could result in more expensive overtime pay.
Furloughs are the “least painful way of going,” Quinn said. “We want to limit layoffs wherever possible. That's why the use of the furlough can help preserve jobs on the state.” Despite furloughs, he added the state would still have to lay off about 2,600 workers and that Illinois only has as many employees today as it did in 1973. The roughly 58,000 workers is one of the nation's lowest ratios of state employees per state resident. “But having said that," Quinn said, "we still have to do these very difficult cuts because we simply don't have the money.”
The dramatic cuts are nothing new to many legislators. The governor has been making similar warnings since the spring legislative session. However, some Republican lawmakers said they're still waiting for the governor to act on other types of reforms before they'll consider a tax increase, which Quinn maintains is the other major way to avoid such deep budget cuts.
For instance, Rep. Franco Coladipietro, a Blooomingdale Republican, said the governor and the General Assembly need to address initiatives that affect not just this year's budget, but budgets several years down the road. He cited job growth, as well as more significant ethics and public employee pension reforms. “Passing a tax increase right now with making no changes to the structural budget process in Illinois only puts us in a position where we'll be in the same exact position three years from now,” he said. “And it doesn't change anything.”
Coladipietro was one suburban Chicago legislator at a closed-door meeting with the governor yesterday. Quinn also previously met with female legislators. He said he plans to meet with downstate legislators in Springfield later this week, and he's scheduled to meet Monday with legislative leaders in the Executive Mansion.