Last Friday, I met with Rep Chris Nybo in Lombard to discuss disability issues. Rep Nybo has a Disability Advisory Committee which I spoke to earlier this summer. He has great interest in disability issues and would like to work with The Arc whenever possible. Here is a picture of Rep Nybo.
Also on Friday, the statewide advocates met to discuss the closing of Mabley & Jacksonville. If you are aware of individuals who have moved out of state institutions, please ask them to share their success story with me.
Tomorrow I am back in Chicago to meet with Senator Heather Steans. Senator Steans is the Chairperson of Senate Appropriation Committee that committee reviews the Dept. of Human Services.
On Wednesday, The Arc/TAP Convention Committee meets for the first time! This years convention is scheduled for April 25-26, 2012. If you have any recommendations for possible speakers at the convention I would like to hear from you!
Story on the state’s continued financial problems follows.
The Arc of Illinois
Illinois budget deficit to hit $8 billion despite tax increase
A spokeswoman for Gov. Pat Quinn said the administration has worked to address the state’s money challenges by putting in place pension and Medicaid reforms. ((Zbigniew Bzdak/Tribune)
By Monique Garcia
September 26, 2011
Despite a major income tax increase, the state of Illinois is expected to end the budget year more than $8 billion in the red, according to a report set to be released Monday by a nonpartisan tax watchdog group.
The Civic Federation analysis found that while lawmakers cut spending for state agencies this year, the reductions were offset by higher pension costs and the growing cost of paying back years of increased borrowing to keep Illinois afloat.
In all, the state will be $8.3 billion short on June 30 if nothing is done, according to the report. The majority of that money, roughly $5.5 billion, will come in the form of unpaid bills from companies that provide everything from meals for the elderly to toilet paper for prisoners. Another $1.2 billion is composed of Medicaid payments the state will push off until the next budget year, while the remaining $1.6 billion is owed to companies for tax returns and health insurance bills for state workers.
“What we’re seeing is that even after a considerable tax increase and a commitment by the Illinois General Assembly to set expenditures based on revenues, because of the manipulations to under fund Medicaid and the growing debt service and pension contribution costs, the state remains in an unstable and unsustainable fiscal situation,” said Laurence Msall, Civic Federation president.
Kelly Kraft, budget spokeswoman for Gov. Pat Quinn, said the administration has worked to address the state’s money challenges by putting in place pension and Medicaid reforms. More reforms are needed, however, she added.
Despite the bleak picture, Msall said there was a silver lining this year — lawmakers made the annual pension payment without borrowing money. But Msall said that payment, roughly $4 billion, ate up most of the extra money the January tax increase brought into the state, and the pension systems remain severely underfunded.
Msall is calling on lawmakers to rein in pension costs by limiting benefits for current employees. It’s an effort led by House Republican leader Tom Cross of Oswego that has been met with skepticism from some leading Democrats, including Quinn.
Quinn argues that changing benefits mid-career could be a violation of state law and result in a costly court fight. But others say they’re willing to take on that challenge to control ballooning costs.
“We cannot afford not to do pension reform,” Cross spokeswoman Sara Wojcicki Jimenez said.
Cross’ plan would ensure that employees keep the benefits they’ve earned to date, but give them three choices: stay in the current system and pay more, move to a lower-benefit tier that went into effect this year for new hires or enter into a 401(k)-style system.
Meanwhile, Democratic Rep. Frank Mautino of downstate Spring Valley said lawmakers can ease some of the budget burden by borrowing to pay off the backlog of bills. Mautino argues that the state would save money in the long run because it would get a better interest rate on the open market than what it must pay to providers for failing to pay bills on time. Quinn has made the same case to lawmakers, but his plans have failed to gain traction.
More borrowing is an idea the Civic Federation has opposed, contending that the state’s reliance on loans leads to higher debt payments that ultimately means less money to spend on daily operations.