CHICAGO - Illinois' already strained balance sheet can't afford the new spending and debt proposed in Gov. Rod Blagojevich's $49.7 billion budget for the next fiscal year, a Chicago-based government watchdog group warned yesterday in announcing its opposition to the plan that relies on new general obligation, pension, and tobacco debt.

The Civic Federation of Chicago, a nonpartisan business-sponsored organization that monitors government spending, issued its critique of the proposed budget in a 62-page analysis yesterday. While it endorsed some proposals, the group offered a stinging assessment of the most high-profile measures such as a $16 billion pension bond issue, $1 billion in new business taxes, the partial leasing of the state lottery, and $1.9 billion in new spending on health care and education and for tax breaks.

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