SPRINGFIELD -- A plan to borrow $6.2 billion to pay down a huge backlog of bills failed in the Illinois Senate Sunday.

Although the outcome wasn't a surprise - Republicans have said they'd vote against it for months - the move sent a clear message to Gov. Pat Quinn that the budget lawmakers are poised to send him will be austere and for some Illinoisans, painful.

Quinn wants to borrow money to pay back vendors rather than cut spending on other programs. He initially wanted $8.7 billion in borrowing, but the Senate agreed to the smaller amount with an eye on paying it back over seven years.

But the proposal, which needed 36 votes to pass, received just 19 "yes" votes, as lawmakers work to finish up their work for the spring by midnight Tuesday.

"It's always a bad idea to borrow money when you don't know how you are going to pay it back," said state Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon.

State Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville, who sponsored the proposal, said selling bonds to pay down debt does not constitute new borrowing, only a restructuring of existing debt. The legislation called for the money to be repaid over seven years at a cost of $804 million in interest.

He said it was irresponsible for the state to not pay vendors for work they have done for the state.

"This is a responsible plan," Sullivan said.

For vendors, the decision likely means continued lengthy waits to get paid by the state.

 

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