Blagojevich slashes state budget by $211 million

By Deanna Bellandi

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Gov. Rod Blagojevich cut $211 million from the state budget Wednesday by vetoing money for programs he supports, including subsidies so students, seniors and the disabled can ride for free or cheap on public transportation.

Blagojevich has complained the budget the General Assembly sent him was $2 billion out of whack and he threatened the cuts unless lawmakers came up with more money.

The cuts he made Wednesday include more than $37 million in subsidizes to reimburse transit agencies for free or reduced rides on public transportation for students, seniors and the disabled.

Blagojevich spokesman Lucio Guerrero said cutting the subsidies won’t do away with the rides.

“They’re still going to do this, they still have to do this,” Guerrero said.

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Blagojevich also cut $3 million for public parks and museums; $5 million for a 3 percent increase in reimbursement for foster parents; $2.1 million for water-supply planning; and $1 million for state’s attorneys’ expenses in capital punishment cases.

Blagojevich slashed the money the day lawmakers came back to the Capitol to deal with the budget and give his $34 billion capital construction program a hearing.

“While these reductions will impact numerous programs that I support, I cannot in good conscience sign an appropriations bill that is not supported by current funding sources, and may ultimately lead our State into economic disarray,” Blagojevich wrote in a veto message to lawmakers.

The bills Blagojevich vetoed were Senate bills. Guerrero said Blagojevich was still deciding what to do with a House appropriations bill – either veto parts of it or the whole thing.

Blagojevich has blamed lawmakers, specifically the Illinois House, for not passing enough revenue to fund the spending in the budget they sent him.

“Every program that gets reduced is an important one,” Guerrero said. “This shows how important it is to have revenue.”

The state’s fiscal year began July 1 and bills are starting to come due.

John O’Connor contributed to this report.