SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Virtually every part of state government would be forced to cut spending under a budget outline approved Thursday by the Illinois House, where even supporters called it a “painful, painful” decision.
The spending plan calls for slashing billions of dollars from the Medicaid health program. Officials acknowledge they don’t know how they’ll reach that target, but it’s likely to involve eliminating services such as dental care or prescription drug coverage for adults.
Other government programs, from schools to prisons to agriculture, would be hit with cuts of about 5%.
State leaders say government must cut spending dramatically or risk a virtual collapse of key services.
“It is going to be a painful, painful year, but we have the future of these children and the future of the poorest and most vulnerable in our hearts,” said Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago.
The situation has grown desperate because revenues have been stagnant for years, but state expenses for health care and government pensions are climbing dramatically. That’s leaving less and less money for other programs. Even a major income tax increase last year did not put government into the black.
Illinois faces a deep financial hole, with unpaid bills of roughly $8 billion. The House plan calls for paying about $1.3 billion of that backlog, mostly to doctors and hospitals that have provided care under Medicaid.
The budget outline was approved 91-16. It now goes to the state Senate, where leaders support the same general approach but not necessarily the specific amounts approved in the House.
Gov. Pat Quinn’s office said he opposes the education cuts that would be required by the House plan.