The Illinois House voted overwhelmingly Monday to borrow nearly $2.3 billion that could solve another piece of the state's budget puzzle. It also sent to Gov. Pat Quinn a series of public works construction bills that the House has kept from the governor for weeks using a parliamentary move. Both actions come as the state is about to end its 2009 budget year without a new spending plan in place and with no clear indication when one will be.

The Illinois House voted overwhelmingly Monday to borrow nearly $2.3 billion that could solve another piece of the state's budget puzzle.

It also sent to Gov. Pat Quinn a series of public works construction bills that the House has kept from the governor for weeks using a parliamentary move.
 
Both actions come as the state is about to end its 2009 budget year without a new spending plan in place and with no clear indication when one will be.

House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, both Chicago Democrats, met with Quinn Monday to try and reach some agreement on budget issues.  Republican leaders were not invited.

Madigan declined to talk about the meeting afterward.  Cullerton said he does not believe the General Assembly will agree on a tax hike by midnight Tuesday, the end of the current budget and fiscal year.

"It's clear the Republicans are saying they are not ready," Cullerton said, a reference to the fact it will take at least one Republican vote in the House to pass a tax hike, assuming all Democrats vote for it.  Gaining unanimous Democratic support is considered unlikely at best.

Republican leaders are scheduled to meet with Quinn, Madigan and Cullerton Tuesday.

"There are some substantive things we need to talk about in reform and cuts and new programs" before agreeing to a tax hike, said House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego.

Cullerton said the Democrats discussed different techniques for squeezing, whether cuts, taking longer to pay bills or being optimistic about how much will be collected in taxes.  Those ideas didn't solve the overall problem, he said.

"In our opinion, the bottom line is it would still require a tax increase," Cullerton said.

Even with an income tax increase, though, cuts will be necessary.  Quinn has a target of $1 billion that will be cut under any circumstances.  Meeting that will eliminate 2,200 jobs and require workers to take 12 unpaid days off.

The House voted 101-7 for Senate Bill 415, which frees up more than $2.2 billion in state money by borrowing against pension payments. The measure now heads to the Senate, which is expected to approve the plan Tuesday.

The House stipulated that any money freed up by the maneuver must go to human service programs that are now facing severe cuts.
 
"Some of those cuts will not be made because of this money," said Rep. Kevin McCarthy, D-Orland Park.
 
Some lawmakers said they were nervous about voting to raise money by borrowing against future payments – and thus raising debt costs in the future. But they said given the choices, this idea makes sense.
 
"We need to support this today, but we need to do more work to solve the problems," said Rep. Roger Eddy, R-Hutsonville.

But some critics say it's too risky.

"Borrowing is not the answer. It is simply digging a hole that we're going to step into next year," said Rep. Dave Winters, R-Shirland.

A long-sought capital construction program is finally headed to the governor's desk, a month after lawmakers approved it.

Legislators had approved the $29 billion spending plan for construction projects throughout the state in May.  It would be paid for by legalizing video poker, making state Lottery management private and raising some fees and taxes on alcohol and candy.

But Quinn said he wouldn't sign the plan until lawmakers also sent a budget he supported. So the House used a parliamentary move known as a motion to reconsider to keep the bills from going to his desk.

Rep. Lou Lang, the Skokie Democrat who filed the reconsider motions, said he was angry with Quinn for linking the two issues together and for then rapping lawmakers for not sending him the bills.

He said Monday it's time to remove those motions on House Bills 255, 312, 2400 and 2424 so the governor can act on them.  Quinn has 60 days to act on the bills or the automatically become law.

Meanwhile, both Reps. Raymond Poe, R-Springfield and Rich Brauer, R-Petersburg, said they want to see the legislature adopt a 60-day budget to buy more time to find a compromise.

"We would like to know which programs are staying, which are going to be shorted and we haven't seen that at all," Poe said.

The two split on support for an income tax increase among their constituents.  Brauer said most people in his district are against a tax hike.  Poe, though, said his constituents are "overwhelmingly supportive of a tax increase."

Poe did not vote for the temporary, 50 percent income tax hike last month.

Andrew Thomason and Eric Naing contributed to this report.  Doug Finke can be reached at (217) 788-1527 or doug.finke@sj-r.com.  Ryan Keith can be reached at (217) 788-1518 or ryan.keith@sj-r.com.