* Pensions will eat up $5.2 billion
* Budget allocates $1.3 billion to pay bills
* Governor seeks more funding for children
By Karen Pierog
CHICAGO, June 30 Illinois Governor Pat Quinn
said on Saturday he signed a $33.7 billion budget for fiscal
2013 after vetoing spending for prisons that he plans to close.
Quinn said public pensions, which lawmakers have so far
failed to reform, will eat up $5.2 billion of the fiscal 2013
budget, compared to $1.8 billion in fiscal 2008.
"We simply can't afford this. The squeeze is on," Quinn
said, vowing to have "meeting after meeting" with lawmakers to
get a deal on pension reform in the future.
The Democratic governor said he also planned to work with
lawmakers later this year to reallocate the vetoed prison
funding to the Department of Children and Family Services, which
lawmakers cut by $50 million.
He said he was choosing vulnerable children over "outdated,
Quinn said the new spending plan, which aims to save $82
million through the closure and consolidation of 57 state
facilities, makes progress on fixing Illinois' ailing finances
by cutting spending, paying bills and reforming Medicaid, the
state and federally funded healthcare program for the poor.
The budget for the fiscal year that begins on Sunday
allocates $1.3 billion to the payment of overdue bills,
according to Quinn.
Illinois will end fiscal 2012 on Saturday with about $8
billion in bills owed for Medicaid and other services, as well
as for corporate tax refunds and employee health insurance,
State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka's office estimated.
MEDICAID REFORMED, NOT PENSIONS
Quinn earlier this year called on lawmakers to pass reforms
to Medicaid and employee pensions to stop the two from consuming
even more than their current 39 percent of state general fund
Illinois' Democrat-controlled General Assembly approved a
package of bills to reduce Medicaid spending by $2.7 billion,
but failed to agree on a plan to ease Illinois' $83 billion
unfunded pension liability, one of the largest among the states.
While reforms continue to be studied by legislative leaders
and the governor's office, House Republican Leader Tom Cross on
Friday said he planned to convene a meeting of his chamber's
Pensions Investments Committee in the coming weeks to examine
how recently approved accounting standards will effect the
state's pension liability.
"According to the Pew Center on the States, Illinois has
the worst funded pension plan in the nation and the new
(Governmental Accounting Standards Board) standards will
exacerbate the unfunded liability," Cross wrote in a letter to
Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan.
He said some experts have speculated the new standards could
push Illinois' $83 billion unfunded liability up by as much as