Illinois Senate looks to fund raids to pay old bills
SPRINGFIELD – In order to pay down overdue bills, Illinois Senate Democrats want to siphon cash out of special funds that support a myriad of projects — including Boy and Girl Scouts, tourism, energy assistance and transit development.
The fund raids are part of a broader budget crafted by Senate Democrats, which was approved in part by a senate committee Monday night. The proposal wants to use $403 million from more than 500 special funds to pay down $8.5 billion in overdue bills the state owes vendors and schools.
Senate Democrats project $1.9 billion in special funds will go unspent by the end of fiscal year 2013.
State Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, is carrying several pieces of legislation that make up the Senate Democrats budget. She said the raids would be a one-time event and said the state would not reimburse the funds.
Targeted special funds include:
Autism Awareness Fund
Boy Scout and Girl Scout Fund
Coal Mining Regulatory Fund
Drug Treatment Fund
Insurance Financial Regulation Fund
Military Affairs Trust
Pesticide Control Fund
Real Estate License Administration Fund
Youth Drug Abuse Prevention Fund
“We found other dollars, we found this, for lack of a better word, these stashes of money,” state Sen. Donne Trotter, D-Chicago, said Monday evening.
Senate Republicans attacked the Democrats' for spending more than the $33.7 billion revenue estimate the General Assembly agreed to budget by earlier this spring.
State Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine, said spending more than $33.7 billion would put the legislature on track to maintain last year's income tax increase when it sunsets in 2014.
Speaking during a rare Springfield press conference Monday, Gov. Pat Quinn would not say whether he supports raids.
An Illinois Supreme Court ruling last year paved the way for the Senate Democrats’ plan. In that case, the court considered the legality of the legislature's 2004 sweep of $1.2 million from the Cycle Rider Safety Training Fund. The fund is supported by a percentage of motorcycle registration fees and funds motorcycle training courses around the state.
The Supreme Court ruled that all money paid to state funds may be used at the state's discretion regardless of the fund's purpose.
The pain isn't over for the Cycle Rider Safety Training Fund: Senate Democrats said they may tap it again this year.
Andrew Thomason can be reached at email@example.com.
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