Opinion: Stopgap spending bill not nearly enough


By Herald & Review editorial board

Gov. Bruce Rauner and the state Legislature once again are balancing the state’s checkbook on the backs of those least able to provide for themselves. And while a “stopgap” spending measure for social service agencies would provide some welcome relief, it’s too little too late for the thousands of Illinois residents who pay taxes and expect to receive needed benefits from state programs.

Both the House and Senate approved the bill on Thursday and it is now headed to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk. The Rauner administration expressed some concerns about the measure as it passed through both chambers, but Rauner hasn’t said whether he will sign the bill.

As reported by the Herald & Review capital bureau, the measure would authorize spending about $700 million from special funds that are usually dedicated to other purposes, such as affordable housing and foreclosure prevention.


Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, who sponsored the measure, said it should help seniors, people with disabilities, disabled children, immigrants and others. But “we acknowledge there are many other needs of the state in other departments not covered in this legislation which also have needs,” he told The State Journal-Register (Springfield).

The proposal would provide enough money to cover about 46 percent of what social service providers and other programs received from the state last year, according to reports. It would go to programs and services that haven’t already been receiving money this fiscal year through the court orders and consent decrees that have driven most state spending since the budget year began July 1.

Unfortunately, the proposed spending is not enough to meet the needs of social service agencies and it doesn’t address all the other state programs that also need funding — a problem that squarely lands at the feet of the governor and legislative leaders who have chosen to play chicken with the lives of the state’s residents.

Take, for instance, a new overtime rule for home health care workers whose work allows people to stay in their homes rather than move to a more costly nursing home. Under rules that took effect May 1, the personal assistants are no longer allowed to work more than 40 hours a week.

Rauner’s administration said the restrictions were necessary to control costs; the workers’ union, Service Employees International Union Healthcare Illinois, estimates the overtime would cost the state $7 million per year out of roughly $36 billion in overall state spending.

It is hard to pick and choose cuts, consolidations and spending delays when you’re trying to create a balanced budget. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the inequities in state spending — or state cuts.



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