Ill. House votes to cut education spending

 
Associated Press
Updated 5/12/2011 11:45 PM

SPRINGFIELD -- Illinois schools would lose $166 million in state support under cuts approved Thursday as the Illinois House passed parts of an austere new state budget.

That's about 2.3 percent less than schools get under the current state budget. Most of the cuts would come from funds that schools use for general needs. Early childhood education also would take a significant hit, falling 5 percent.

 

The cuts were approved 102-12. Legislation making cuts to a wide array of smaller state agencies also was approved, and more budget bills could be approved Friday.

The budget is far from settled, however. Senate Democrats have their own ideas on how much to spend and where. So does Gov. Pat Quinn, although his budget proposal has found little support in the Legislature.

The final budget could be any of the three versions or a compromise.

The House plan would challenge the unions representing state employees, said Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley. He said the budget won't contain money for raises that were promised in the latest contract.

Mautino, a House leader on budget issues, said the unions can agree to give up their raises or agencies would run out of money and have to cut jobs.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees has already agreed to some concessions, including a promise to cut costs at least $50 million if the state doesn't lay off any union members.

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Lawmakers say that after years of gaping budget deficits and a major tax increase, they had little choice but to keep cutting -- even if it hurts important services.

"I'm willing to vote for a budget that cuts my life's work because I know it needs to be done to put this state back on the right track," said Rep. Roger Eddy, a Hutsonville Republican and a school superintendent.

Piece by piece, the House is approving a state budget that would be about $1 billion below what Quinn proposed.

House leaders of both parties are working together on the budget. They maintain Quinn's plan, which would increase spending by about $1.7 billion, overestimates how much money the state will collect in the fiscal year starting July 1.

The Democratic governor says he opposes cutting education and vital human services. A spokeswoman said Thursday night that Quinn's budget office is reviewing the House budget plan and its impact.