CHICAGO - The financial stakes for Illinois as Gov. Pat Quinn and lawmakers work to close a $12 billion budget gap rose yesterday when Fitch Ratings placed the state's AA-minus credit on negative watch ahead of today's $150 million general obligation bond sale.

Standard & Poor's yesterday affirmed the state's AA-minus and Moody's Investors Service on Friday downgraded the credit to A1 from Aa3. Illinois has $19.3 billion of GO debt and will take competitive bids this morning on the new-money issue. The only states rated below the double-A category by Fitch are California, at A, and Louisiana, at A-plus.

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