Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Federal funds may require a special session

By Jamey Dunn

As Gov. Pat Quinn tries to piece together a budget with billions in unpaid bills piling up, the federal government will be chipping in to help cover Medicaid and education costs. This new revelation could mean the General Assembly will have to hold a special session to dole out the education funds.

President Barack Obama signed a $26.1 billion spending package intended to preserve public sector and education jobs. The measure also extends an elevated Medicaid match — which works out to 62 cents on the dollar for Illinois instead of the usual 50 cents — that was set to expire at the end of the year. Illinois would likely get about $400 million for education and $550 million for Medicaid.

Officials at the Illinois State Board of Education believe that the General Assembly will have to return to Springfield to appropriate the federal dollars for education. From a newsletter written by State Superintendent Christopher Koch:

Illinois stands to receive an additional $400 million in federal education funding. We believe that if the spending measure becomes law, the Illinois General Assembly would have to come back to Springfield to pass a supplemental appropriation, and these funds would likely be distributed through General State Aid.

Quinn’s Office of Management and Budget and the legislative leaders are all reviewing the bill to determine if a special session is needed. Kelly Kraft, a spokeswoman for the governor’s budget office, said a decision could come by next week.

ISBE spokesperson Mary Fergus said the federal government estimated the money could save up to 5,600 education jobs in Illinois. She added that applications for the funds should be available to states in about a week.

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