Arc and State Autism Future Uncertain After Immedicate Cuts
NPR and other news sources this morning are saying that the Governor may restore
funding to some of the grants what were suspended on Friday. All of us were shocked
when we received the SUSPENSION email Friday morning. We had thought that the
budget agreement included funding for these services until June 30th which is the end
of the fiscal year.
Advocates will rally against the budget cuts Thursday, noon to 1:00 at the Thompson
Center. Click here for details. Join us!
Story from State Journal Register interviews Senator Steans and others also shocked
by the budget cuts. I assisted the reporter on this story
State Autism Program Uncertain After Immediate Cut by Rauner
By Dean Olsen, Staff Writer
April 06. 2015 7:53PM
Hundreds of families in the Springfield area and thousands across the state face the
possibility of abruptly losing services for their autistic children after an immediate $1
million budget cut by Gov. Bruce Rauner.
“It was totally unexpected,” Russell Bonanno, director of The Autism Program’s
statewide network, said Monday at a news conference at TAP’s Springfield
TAP, which is operated by Springfield-based Hope Institute for Children and Families,
learned Friday afternoon that its state funding for the remaining three months of the
fiscal year was suspended by Rauner as part of the Republican’s efforts to deal with a
$1.6 billion shortfall for the current fiscal year.
State funds make services affordable for the 75 percent to 90 percent of TAP clients
whose Medicaid coverage doesn’t pay for most services related to autism, a
communication disorder, TAP spokesman Mark Schmidt said.
TAP officials said the action was a surprise because they thought they would be spared
any cuts the remainder of this fiscal year.
Rauner has proposed to eliminate TAP’s entire $4.3 million in state funding for fiscal
2016, which begins July 1, and TAP officials are working to prevent that from
happening by rallying public support.
House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, told lawmakers on the House floor in late
March — before the House and Senate voted on a bipartisan plan to resolve the $1.6
billion shortfall — that state funding for TAP and many other programs for people with
mental illness and developmental disabilities would be preserved this fiscal year.
The budget compromise included appropriation authority for TAP to operate through
the close of the fiscal year, TAP officials said.
“It appears that Gov. Rauner has turned his back on the budget process for the
remainder of this fiscal year, which he and legislative leaders negotiated and passed
less than two weeks ago,” Bonanno said. “We can’t understand why he gave his word
and then took this action.”
Rauner administration spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said Rauner didn’t go back on
In an emailed statement, Kelly said, “Part of the solution to solving the inherited $1.6
billion budget hole without raising taxes or increasing borrowing is to continue to
evaluate the current fiscal year’s budget.”
She said the legislation recently passed by the General Assembly and signed by
Rauner “is not a complete solution, and the governor’s ability to manage the budget is
restricted by the legislation as well as the time it took to pass.”
However, Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, one of two budget committee chairs in the
Senate, said she thought the legislation was the fix that the current fiscal year budget
Then she learned from social-service providers late last week about entire programs
losing funding immediately as part of $26 million in additional cuts announced by
Rauner. “I was shocked to hear about this,” she said. “We had no heads up. This is not
sharing the pain.”
Steve Brown, spokesman for Madigan, said Rauner’s action appeared to conflict with
what Madigan spoke about on the House floor.
“We’re going to have to examine closely what the administration has done,” Brown said.
“We’ll have to see what the explanations are.”
Madigan wants to preserve funding for the autism service providers and other social-
service groups, Brown said. The speaker’s assurance to lawmakers before their
bipartisan votes on the plan was important, Brown said.
“That’s why the proposal got enough votes to pass,” Brown said.
Steans said the governor has the authority to spend or not spend money that the
legislature has appropriated. But lawmakers plan to hold a hearing when the General
Assembly returns to Springfield next week to illuminate the governor’s action and its
impact, she said.
It’s unclear when The Autism Program will decide how to deal with the funding cut. But
for now, clinical programs — such as assessments and group therapy sessions — are
continuing in Springfield and sites in Rockford, Chicago, Peoria, Bloomington-Normal,
Champaign-Urbana and other locations.
The not-for-profit agency’s state funding supports six full-time and six-part-time jobs in
Springfield, as well as about 120 jobs at additional TAP sites, some of them operated
in partnership with universities and other not-for-profit organizations.
It’s unclear whether TAP could continue to operate if it served only clients whose
health insurance covers autism-related services, according to Leigh Grannan, director
of the TAP Center at Hope Institute.
Whitney Rikas, 30, of Auburn said at the news conference that her children, Tavon
Gowdy, 4, and Calvin Gowdy, who will turn 3 in June, have benefited from the
“applied behavioral analysis” therapy they have received at TAP for a reduced rate.
Rikas, a special-education teacher, said she fears that she and the boys’ father, Logan
Gowdy, 31, an electrician, won’t be able to afford therapy for their sons if TAP’s state
support goes away.
She broke down in tears as she described how her sons’ life skills have improved and
how the boys will need much more help in the years to come.
“I hope TAP is here when they’re 5, or when they’re 10 or when they’re 20, because
they have so many life skills to go through … and I want my child to succeed, just like
any other parent,” she said.
When asked what she would tell the governor, she said: “When he’s announcing that
they’re not going to have the program anymore … he needs to come here, and look
at these children, and tell them that this program isn’t going to be there for them
Kelly said Rauner needs to make “difficult decisions” to deal with a “phony budget”
passed by former Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat whom Rauner defeated in the
Schmidt said Rauner has talked about “shared sacrifice” in dealing with the state’s
funding crisis. “In this action,” Schmidt said, “TAP is the sacrifice. There’s no ‘shared’
about it. It’s not a percentage cut against our budget. It is total elimination of the
TAP officials said autism-related services for children more than pay for themselves
in future costs associated with special education and potential institutionalization.
— Contact Dean Olsen: email@example.com, 788-1543, twitter.com/DeanOlsenSJR.
Tony Paulauski Executive Director
The Arc of Illinois
20901 S. LaGrange Rd. Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423