Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law last Wednesday night a $26 billion state budget that reduces funding to many of the state’s social service programs; a course of action that Quinn had tried to avoid by pushing for an income tax hike.
Meeting in special session, lawmakers in the House and Senate passed the budget – which is balanced thanks to $3.5 billion borrowed from private investigators to pay off pension obligations – with a certain amount of reluctance. Some view it as a temporary solution to the looming deficit, which is estimated to be anywhere between $7 billion and $12 billion.
“We haven’t generated any revenue,” Sen. Kim Lightford (D-4th) said. “I predict in six months we’ll be back at this.”
The General Assembly also granted Quinn the unique authority over a lump sum of the overall budget.
There is enough money in the current budget to allocate 86 percent of the funding that was previously provided these programs, however, Quinn’s agency directors will more than likely be distributing state funds on a case-by-case basis.
As a result, money will be dispersed to social services on the basis of those organizations Quinn sees as more “compelling,” according to Rep. Mike Zalewski (D-21st).
“We thought that by giving it to the executive branch, he’d do the right thing,” Rep. Karen Yarbrough (D-7th) said, “and the agency directors could make the decisions as to where to make cuts.”
Sen. Don Harmon (D-39th) estimated the state is $1.5 billion short of meeting agency requests. Consequently, when giving social service groups state money, Quinn’s staff will carefully study “which programs are most valuable, and which are performing up to par,” Harmon said.
West Suburban PADS – a Maywood-based non-profit for the homeless – relies on the Illinois Department of Human Services for about 3 percent of its overall budget. The state’s current plan would wipeout the agency’s homeless prevention program. That effort provides financial assistance to those on the verge of losing their homes, and to qualifying individuals leaving the shelter in search of a home.
“It’s craziness,” Lynda Schueler, executive director for PADS, said. “Especially when so many people are losing their homes.”
PADS would also see reductions in the $38,000 emergency food and shelter grant it receives from the state.
Cicero-based Seguin services – which specializes in helping those with developmental disabilities – receives 84 percent of its funding from the state. Seguin has adapted to the state’s budget cuts through layoffs, the restructuring of staff positions, and a reduction in services.
Their supported employment program, which, at one point, put some 160 individuals to work for about 70 businesses in roughly 50 communities, would be forced to stop serving 27 of those individuals. This program will be hardest hit, as they have already been stripped of a $340,000 grant from DHS, according to Seguin officials.
Twenty-five staff positions have been restructured or eliminated in the organization’s attempt to operate within the cuts.
“We have put a much stronger emphasis on acquiring additional revenues from sources other than the state, although we still have to direct a lot of advocacy on acquiring funding from the state of Illinois,” Jim Haptonstahl, senior vice president for Seguin Services said.
Moving forward, though, and functioning within these cuts could be difficult for many organizations.
“Other agencies have gone through self-assessment and said ‘what can we do to get additional money to provide the basic level of service?'” Haptonstahl said. “That is fundamental.”