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State GOP leaders press Democrats on the 'erosion' of Illinois' fiscal condition

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SPRINGFIELD-In a letter sent Thursday, the Illinois Legislature's Republican leaders handed the ball off to their Democratic counterparts and the governor, urging them to take action on the severe budgetary pressures facing the state.

House Republican leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) and Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) called on Gov. Pat Quinn, House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) and Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) to address the state's backlog of unpaid bills, swelling pension payments and unresolved union negotiations.

"While a bipartisan approach has been undertaken to enact many solutions, full execution of these solutions requires unreserved follow through by the majority party which is in charge of the executive branch and both chambers of the General Assembly," the letter stated.

The letter points to the difficult choices legislators will face due to budget constraints outlined in the governor's three-year budget projection, especially a pension contribution that will increase to $6.7 billion in the next fiscal year.

The GOP leaders' letter also mentions the "financial and emotional uncertainty" union members have faced "due to the lack of a collective bargaining agreement" with the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees union. Henry Bayer, AFSCME Council 31 executive director, has suggested Quinn could soon push the union to strike, but Quinn denied the accusation earlier this week.

"I don't do that," Quinn said. "Basically, you know, it's a give and take. We have a good team, and they have a good team."

Cross and Radogno also pointed to a $2 billion backlog of unpaid bills in the state's Group Health Insurance program and a still unsecured $300 million in program savings built into the FY13 budget.

The Republican leaders say those savings combined with reforms enacted in Medicaid and the state's Community Care Program should be saving Illinois billions of dollars. However, they say the reforms have yet to be implemented and are costing the state more than $2 billion in lost savings.

"With FY13 already more than half over, it is imperative that actions to address these concerns be implemented without delay," the letter said. "Deferring these actions to be part of the FY14 budget discussions will simply continue the erosion of the state's fiscal condition entering the new fiscal year.

"We look forward to your response on how you plan to address these FY13 issues."

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