Illinois Republican Lawmakers Criticize Proposed Illinois Human Service Budget Cuts

(Springfield, IL) — April 29, 2011. The Illinois Department of Human Services says it will be forced to cut programs to some of the state’s most vulnerable residents unless it is spared from deep cuts in next year’s budget.

But lawmakers on Thursday questioned the agency’s commitment given the fact that DHS employees received pay raises.

“I don’t know who is more vulnerable in Illinois, tell me who they are,” said State Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Highland, in a heated discussion during a committee meeting. “Bring in your AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) employees and have them stand before us, and tell us that they are more vulnerable than the people at these facilities.”

DHS Secretary Michelle Saddler said the workload for employees has doubled due to layoffs, and that DHS employees have received pay raises that total up to $47 million.

A panel of legislators in a House Appropriations-Human Services Committee grilled Saddler and other DHS directors as the agency presented its line-by-line budget proposal for fiscal year 2012, which starts July 1. The deadline for the budget is May 31. The DHS proposed 2012 budget is $388 million less than its current $3.7 billion budget.


Rep. Sara Feigenholtz Says House Appropriation Panel Poised to Act on Illinois Human Services Budget

(Springfield, IL) — April 28, 2011. Illinois lawmakers returned to the Capitol Tuesday to a fast approaching deadline for getting the next year’s Illinois budget passed. The House is expected to start voting on individual budget proposals by the end of next week.

House committees have been holding hearings since January to determine which agencies and programs will be getting cut for the state to fit under the $23.8 billion spending budget. Total House numbers tallies in at $33.2 billion, which also includes funding for pension and debt payments.

State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, who’s heads the committee that is divvying up funds for human services, calls the task of budgeting with shrinking numbers daunting.

“I am still fighting with my leadership. I’m trying to do a little pushback here with what we’re actually realistically able to do,” said Feigenholtz.

Unlike in previous years, the House has delegated power to individual committees to determine budgets for elementary and high school education ($6.8 billion), general services ($1.2 billion), higher education ($2 billion), human services ($12 billion) and public safety ($1.6 billion).

State Rep. Fred Crespo, D-Streamwood anticipated these numbers to be broken down even further into individual measures for specific agencies, instead of grouped together into one, all-encompassing budget package.

“They will be done separately unless we find that there is some synergy among some of these departments,” Crespo said.

As of yet, lawmakers agreed that not many of the numbers have been written in stone.

“This is it. We all left town … knowing that this was ahead of us… . And here we are today ready to put pen to paper,” Feigenholtz said.

The Governor’s office will be working closely with lawmakers, said Kelly Kraft, budget spokeswoman for Gov. Pat Quinn.

“There have been different estimates that have come out, but it’s a work in progress,” said Kraft. “We continue to work with legislators to come up with the best possible number.”

The House is working with a total budget of $33.4 billion budget, while the Governor has proposed $35.4 billion.

Illinois Statehouse News

Video Update from Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association CEO Sara Moscato Howe:

Video of State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) courtesy of Illinois Statehouse News.

New A&E TV Documentary Exposes Escalating Heroin Crisis in Chicago, Suburbs

(Springfield, IL) – April 22, 2011. A&E TV last week unveiled a new 45 minute documentary that exposes the escalating heroin crisis in Chicago and the suburbs as the State of Illinois slices its budget for drug treatment services.

“The video footage was taken during the recent mid-year fiscal year 2011 budget crisis in which Governor Pat Quinn’s Administration had planned to eliminate all state treatment and prevention funding for the remainder of the year,” said Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association CEO Sara Moscato Howe.

“The documentary accurately reflects the unfolding heroin crisis which is gripping Chicago’s suburbs,” said Howe. “Drug cartels are expanding their distributions operations in Chicago to meet the spiraling demand from the suburbs.”

The documentary depicts the efforts of several suburban residents struggling to overcome their addiction while state treatment service funding is squeezed by the state.

“It is worth the watch,” said Howe.

You can view the documentary here …

Dan Rutherford, Judy Baar Topinka Divided on Short-Term Borrowing to Pay Illinois’ Overdue Bills

(Springfield, IL) — Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford and Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka can both agree on a plan to merge their offices, but short-term borrowing is a different thing.

Republicans opposed Gov. Pat Quinn‘s plan to borrow $8.75 billion to help the state pay off its debt of $9 billion to $10 billion. Quinn wants to borrow $2 billion in short-term loans to help pay the state’s backlog of bills.

Any short-term borrowing must win the OK from both financial offices.

Rutherford, a Republican, met privately with Quinn, a Democrat, and his budget office staff. Rutherford said he told the governor he doesn’t approve of a multi-billion dollar borrowing plan, which would require repayment with interest at the end of 14 years.

“I told him I don’t support the $8.7 billion borrowing plan; 14-year payment ballooned at the end,” Rutherford said. “I said ‘I don’t support any of that stuff, but I will work with you on short-term borrowing, which I can either sign-off on that or not.’”

States were provided with about $80 billion from the federal stimulus fund, which provides an enhanced Medicaid match rate to hospitals and nursing homes if states make payments within 30 days. Since March 31, Illinois’ match dropped from 59 percent to 57 percent early this month. By July 1, the match will drop to 50 percent.


Illinois Senate Leaders John Cullerton, Christine Radogno Differ on Illinois Budget Process, Revenue Projections

(Springfield, IL) — Illinois Senate Republicans and Democrats agree that cuts are a must to balance next year’s budget, but they argue over exactly how to do it.

After the Senate on Friday passed several measures to make payments to state pension funds, Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said they would have to slash about $1.2 billion from Gov. Pat Quinn’s $35.4 billion budget to balance the checkbook for the next fiscal year.

Cullerton said he wants to see lawmakers in the coming weeks suggest changes to the approximately 40 different pieces of legislation that make up Quinn’s proposed budget, a move Cullerton said would make the process more “open and transparent.”

“We’re not suggesting going behind closed doors, and having a take it or leave it plan that we dump on the desk of the members,” said Cullerton, who compared the process to budgets in recent years.

Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, welcomed the idea of more cuts, but wanted to see fewer political “games” and a more holistic framework.


In Historic Shift, Illinois House Committees Take Illinois Budget Reins, Budget Cuts Responsiblity

(Springfield, IL) — There are going to be some tough decisions made in Springfield.  And not everyone is going to be happy with the outcomes.

The Illinois House’s appropriations committees will be outlining in the coming weeks specific spending amounts for next fiscal year’s budget, a power they haven’t exercised in many years, said State Rep. William Davis, D-East Hazel Crest, who heads the committee that will divvy up funds for elementary and high school education.

In recent years, the General Assembly has typically deferred a lump sum to the governor, allowing him to take control over the specific details in the budget.

Davis said he’s “excited” about the House’s decision to take a more hands-on approach.

“Here’s an opportunity to really get into what these programs do. How (are) they helping people? Are they helping people? Is the amount of money they receive worthy of that?” Davis said.


Final Illinois Budget Likely to Be Lower than Gov. Pat Quinn’s Request, Says GOP Senator Matt Murphy

(Springfield, IL) — The differences between Illinois’ 2011 budget and the still-to-be crafted 2012 budget are becoming more apparent each day.

Lawmakers in the House and Senate are working on their own versions of a spending plan, complete with revenue projections and line-by-line appropriations. It’s not clear which chamber will set the final total for a state budget, and that may not become clear for a while.

This week, Senate Republicans said they are hoping to work with the Democrats who control the upper chamber in Springfield to figure out how to spend a little more than $34 billion. The House budget figure is just above $33 billion. Gov. Pat Quinn wants to spend $35 billion next year.

Senate GOP budget point man State Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine, said just having a conversation about spending and different numbers is a break from the past.


Illinois Youth Alcohol, Drug Prevention Group Wins $30,000 Federal Grant as New Report Says Teen Drug Use Zooms

(Springfield, IL) – April 8, 2011. Illinois’ leading youth alcohol, drug prevention group has received a $30,000 federal government grant to boost its prevention program effectiveness just as a new report released this week says teen drug and alcohol use is escalating as state governments slash prevention funding.

The Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association, which obtained the money from the Center for the Application of Prevention Technologies, on behalf of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration /Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, will use the competitive award for a year-long, comprehensive evaluation of its flagship prevention program, the Illinois Teen Institute program.

“We know this program works,” said IADDA CEO Sara Moscato Howe. “We have many individual success stories, but need a hard numbers assessment to evaluate and refine the program in order to more effectively deter Illinois teens from alcohol and drug abuse.”

The Illinois Teen Institute is an innovative program that develops Illinois youth as peer educators and advocates to their friends for alcohol, tobacco, and other drug prevention. The program develops community partnerships to support and encourage healthy teen lifestyle changes, and helps develop their leadership skills based on substance use prevention, touching approximately 5,000 Illinois teens each year, says Howe.

The new federal money comes just as a new report issued on Wednesday in New York by The Partnership Drug revealed there was a significant 67% increase in the number of teens who reported using Ecstasy in the past year, rising from 6% in 2008 to 10% in 2010. Similarly, marijuana use among teens has increased 22%, jumping from 32% in 2008 to 39% in 2010. Meanwhile, now 62% of teens said they had their first full alcoholic drink by age 15.


Illinois House OKs Health Insurance Parity for Substance Abuse Treatment, Bill Heads to Senate

(Springfield, IL) – April 7, 2011. The Illinois House yesterday decisively approved legislation requiring parity of health insurance coverage for substance abuse treatment services in Illinois, setting the stage for a final push in the Illinois Senate

The House voted 72-39 for the measure, House Bill 1530, a plan that advocates claim will generate health care savings and boost worker productivity.

“With the passage of this legislation, employers will see decreased health care costs and increased worker productivity.” said Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association CEO Sara Moscato Howe. “Additionally, across Illinois, we will see a reduction in accidents, absenteeism and crime while building healthy parents and families.”

Research shows that patients that have completed substance use disorder treatment have been shown to reduce emergency room visits by 39%, hospital stays by 35% and total medical costs by 26%, according to Howe.

The bill is being sponsored by House Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang (D-Skokie).

“House approval of this legislation is an important step toward bringing health insurance parity to addiction health care,” said Lang. “However, the Senate is another key legislative hurdle in the process.”

Illinois Department of Insurance Director Michael McRaith has noted before an earlier House committee hearing that the independent U.S. Congressional Budget Office found that parity will only cause health insurance premiums to rise by 0.4 percent.

Howe also stressed the importance of ensuring that Illinoisans in need of substance use disorder treatment have equal access to addiction services and equitable insurance coverage.

“Addiction is a chronic disease, like diabetes, asthma or hypertension, and paying for its treatment yields as good a return as paying for treatment for other chronic illnesses.”  said Howe.

In addition to IADDA, other bill supporters include: Illinois Department of Insurance, Humana Healthcare, the Illinois Hospital Association, the Illinois State Medical Society, Illinois Psychiatric Society, Illinois Nurses Association, Community Behavioral Healthcare Association of Illinois, Illinois Society for Advanced Practice Nursing, Illinois Psychological Association, United Cerebral Palsy of Illinois, Don Moss & Associates, Association of Community Mental Health Authorities of Illinois, Illinois Association of Rehabilitation Facilities, National Alliance on Mental Health, National Association of Social Workers, Illinois Academy of Family Physicians, Illinois Speech Language Hearing Association, Illinois State Bar Association, American Academy of Pediatrics – Illinois Chapter, Chicago Lakeshore Hospital, Mental Health Summit, Illinois Osteopathic Medical Society and the Child Care Association of Illinois

“This legislation will improve access to lifesaving addiction treatment,” said Howe. “But we still have much work to do to get HB 1530 through the Illinois Senate.”

In addition to Lang, other House sponsors include: State Representatives Robyn Gabel, Will Davis,Naomi Jakobsson Fred Crespo, Dave Winters, Al Riley, Sara Feigenholtz, Mary Flowers, Joe Lyons, Maria Antonia Berrios, Jack Franks, Keith Farnham, Linda Chapa LaVia, Camille Lilly, Cynthia Soto, Ann Williams, Elizabeth Hernandez, John D’Amico, Daniel Biss, Pat Verschoore, and Harry Osterman.

Governor Pat Quinn, Illinois House Divided over Illinois Budget

(Springfield, IL) — As the Illinois House of Representatives and Gov. Pat Quinn duke it out in the state budget ring, the House is about $3 billion lighter compared to the governor’s spending fund.

From the House’s $33.2 billion fiscal year 2012 budget plan, lawmakers set aside $23.8 billion to fund state agencies and services.

Quinn has a $26.9 billion spending fund for state agencies and services. The governor said the state should not forget about the “fundamental things in life (such as) public safety, health care and education.” He has strongly criticized the House’s projected “radical severe” cuts in education funding.