Budget plan would mean more money for schools

Published: Saturday, May 17, 2014 1:15 a.m.CDT

SPRINGFIELD (AP) – A spending plan the Illinois House approved this week includes more money for schools, veterans’ homes and prisons.

House Democrats led the way – but by narrow margins – in adopting nearly 80 appropriations measures Thursday that form the basis of a $37 billion budget that begins July 1.

Republicans opposed the effort because they agreed earlier this year that revenues would be about $34 billion in the coming year, and the spending outstrips money to pay the bills. But Democrats are pushing – with backing from Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn – to make permanent a temporary income tax increase. If it rolls back as scheduled in January, the state would lose an estimated $1.8 billion.

Here are some of the highlights of the proposed spending plan:

n Education: Elementary and secondary schools would get $6.7 billion, including an increase of $132 million in general state aid – operating funds for salaries and learning materials. There would be $25 million more for early childhood education and bilingual education would increase by $12 million.

n Veterans: The $77.6 million budget for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs would include $9 million more, mostly for additional staffing at veterans homes. The state operates homes in Anna, Quincy, Manteno and LaSalle. Veterans’ Affairs Director Erica Borggren, during a visit to Anna this month, said without the continued tax increase, the state could face closing two of the homes.

n Corrections: The state’s prison system would re-open two facilities closed just 2 years ago, transforming former youth prisons into specialized treatment facilities. There’s $9 million in the House-approved budget to do that.

The work at the youth center in Joliet has already begun with a $20,000 study. Quinn wants to reopen it as a center for treating inmates with severe mental illness. The state sees it as a way to settle a 2007 federal lawsuit that said Illinois has not addressed mental health issues in its crowded prisons.

The other proposal would open up the former youth site in Murphysboro as a facility to handle repeat drunk driving offenders with an aim toward reducing recidivism.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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