Senate Democrats made it clear the Governor’s Proposed Budget is not to their liking.
Hundreds of advocates packed a small hearing room to voice their objections to the
cuts to human services. Senate Appropriations Chairperson Heather Steans
questioned Acting Secretary Bassi about why not state institutions were not being
closed in this budget.

Are you aware that there is a bill to reopen the Jacksonville Developmental Center?
Well there is!

The hearing went on for four hours.

On Thursday in the Capitol, the House Human Services Appropriations committee will
meet to discuss the Dept. Human Services budget as well so, we get to do this again.

After the DHS Budget hearing, Shirley Perez, Katherine Hamann and I met with the
Director of Health Care & Family Services, Felicia Norwood. We had an excellent
discussion on managed care, the antiquated adult waiver and the good work of The

We look forward to many more productive meetings with Director Norwood.

Here we are with Director Norwood!

Story from the Chicago Tribune on the DHS budget hearing below.



Senate Democrats deliver pushback on Rauner budget
Opponents pack hearing with people affected by proposed social services cuts

By Kim Geiger Tribune reporter

As Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner tries to win approval for a state budget with severe
spending cuts, Senate Democrats have emerged as the loudest opponents, holding news
conferences and committee hearings to denounce the governor’s proposals as
“unworkable” and “unconscionable.”

The latest front in that effort unfolded Monday, when lawmakers grilled Rauner’s newly
appointed social services chief at a Chicago hearing packed with low-income parents,
people with disabilities and senior citizens who said they rely on the services that Rauner
plans to cut back.

One by one, the Democratic senators questioned Gregory Bassi, acting secretary of the
Department of Human Services, which under Rauner’s proposed budget would lose an
estimated $424 million come July 1.

“When you decide to cut a program (or) you decide to reduce funding, it’s one thing
when you see it on paper,” Sen. Michael Hastings, D-Tinley Park, said as he capped off a
tense back-and-forth with Bassi. “But when you look behind you and you come to the
suburbs and you see what it’s like on the ground, you may think differently about these

Dozens of people who filled the hearing room were on hand to drive home that point: an
eighth-grade student who gave a rave review of her after-school program, a day care
provider who begged against cuts to subsidized services, a man using a wheelchair who
worried about losing the assistance he said keeps him out of a nursing home.

Many of those who were set to talk at the hearing were made available to reporters
beforehand. It’s a time-tested way for social service groups to push back against proposed
budget cuts — putting a human face on what otherwise could remain slices on a budget
pie chart. Such groups generally don’t have the campaign cash to get lawmakers’ attention
like other interest groups at the Capitol.   Democratic Senate President John Cullerton tried
a version of that last week when he addressed a different crowd at a luncheon hosted by
the City Club of Chicago.

“Gov. Rauner sees the budget as merely a math problem. I see the people behind those
numbers, people struggling to get ahead,” Cullerton said before attempting to play a video
featuring a young woman who had benefited from a state scholarship program. But
Cullerton’s plan to pepper his speech with similar videos — to illustrate his point that
Rauner’s budget is “as unworkable as it is unconscionable” — was foiled by a technical

Cullerton has been on the opposite side of Rauner and Democratic House Speaker
Michael Madigan, who both said last month that a deal was close on fixing a $1.6 billion
shortfall in the current budget passed under former Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn.

Talks stalled in the weeks since, and Cullerton’s staff indicated a reluctance among the
more liberal Senate Democratic caucus to give the governor broad authority to make
cuts. Instead, Senate Democrats tooled up their own version that would give Rauner
more narrow authority, which Republicans dismissed as a political stunt.

That tension surfaced at Monday’s hearing, with Republican Sen. Matt Murphy of
Palatine becoming visibly frustrated after Bassi faced tough questioning over this year’s
still-unsolved budget woes.

“To be perfectly clear so everybody in this room understands why this problem hasn’t
been solved yet, it’s because the Senate Democratic caucus wants to leverage this issue
and push this debt into next year and they’re using you as political pawns in the process,”
Murphy said.

Pamela Boyd, 60, wasn’t worried about being used for political purposes. She came to
testify on behalf of Deborah’s Place, which helps homeless women with housing and life

Boyd said she had worked for nearly 30 years, climbing the ranks to become a
supervisor at a state agency office in Maywood. But then she was diagnosed with lupus,
was unable to work, had personal difficulties and eventually lost her home.

“I had worked all my life, had this ‘American Dream’ that you’re supposed to have, then
got sick and the bottom fell out of my world,” said Boyd, who added that the organization
taught her about personal finances and helped her get dental care.

“That all, combined together, helped me get my self-esteem back and make me feel like I
was contributing and not just one of the numbers of a homeless person,” said Boyd, who
is now on the board of the organization that stands to lose $250,000 in state assistance
under Rauner’s plan. “I actually mattered again. And that meant a lot to me.”   Audrey
Thomas, the group’s CEO, said Deborah’s Place could shift money around and turn to
private funders to fill the hole. Still, she said, if the cuts go through, the organization might
have to cut services and lay off as many as seven people.

For Jimmie Yarbrough, the proposed cuts feel like a matter of “life or death.”

Yarbrough has a degenerative spinal condition that he said limits his ability to perform
simple tasks like cooking, cleaning and shopping for groceries. After a number of years in
a nursing home, Yarbrough signed up for a state-funded home services program that he
said allowed him to move into an apartment of his own. Instead of 24-hour nursing home
staff, the program pays for two workers to check in on Yarbrough for a couple of hours
each day.

“I get so much help from my personal assistant people that it helps me maintain
independent living,” said Yarbrough, who uses a wheelchair.   Under Rauner’s proposed
budget, an estimated 10,000 people could be cut from the program, according to Access
Living, which advocates for people with disabilities. The cuts would be applied based on
what’s known as a determination need score.

Currently, people with a score of at least 29 are eligible for the in-home assistance. Under
Rauner’s budget, that score rises to   37. Yarbrough, whose score is 33, would be cut off.

Access Living CEO Mar-ca Bristo called the change “arbitrary” and said the cuts would
fall on people who “are least likely to ask for help and the most likely to die should their
services end, not to mention being forced into a nursing home or going to jail or becoming

It was against that backdrop that Bassi had to field questions about the wisdom of the
governor’s proposed budget.

“We are obligated to our customers and the people of this state to operate within a realistic,
balanced budget,” Bassi told the panel. “This is a difficult time and a difficult budget. As a
result, difficult decisions must be made.”

Tony Paulauski
Executive Director
The Arc of Illinois
20901 S. LaGrange Rd. Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423
815-464-1832 (OFFICE)
815-464-1832 (CELL)