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BLAGOJEVICH BUDGET: Election-year budget has programs aplenty

SPRINGFIELD - In a speech that often sounded more political than financial, Gov. Rod Blagojevich asked lawmakers Wednesday to increase state spending by nearly $1 billion as he seeks to launch a wide array of election-year education, health and public safety programs. Blagojevich proposed a major expansion of preschool programs, a new tax credit to help families pay for college and a five-year plan to support stem-cell research. He also called for ending $198 million worth of tax breaks for business, taking $144 million out of special-purpose funds and increasing cigar taxes by $10 million. The Democratic governor told lawmakers his budget offers a clear choice: Support his efforts to help children and families or side with big business and

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