Fresh Round of Illinois Budget Cuts Shutter Substance Abuse Treatment Services in Central Illinois

IADDA CEO Sara Moscato Howe

(Springfield, IL) – Another punishing round of Illinois state government budget cuts to substance abuse treatment services approved by the legislature in May, averaging 26%, is triggering program closures and employee layoffs in Central Illinois.

“Though the Illinois General Assembly restored 75% of the substance abuse cuts proposed by Governor Pat Quinn, the 25% cut approved by lawmakers is still forcing program closures and employee layoffs,” said Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association CEO Sara Moscato Howe.

The Illinois fiscal year 2012 budget signed by Quinn, which began on July 1, reduces state funding for substance abuse prevention and treatment from $63 million in fiscal year 2011 to $47 million this year. In fact, over the past five years state funding has declined from $112 million to $47 million, according to Howe.

The latest round of budget cuts has forced the recent announcements of planned closures of treatment programs in both Champaign and Peoria.

The Urbana-based Prairie Center closed its detox program, which serves individuals from 62 Illinois counties, on September 1, eliminating service to 700 to 800 people and laying off 7 employees. The Illinois Department of Human Services, led by Secretary Michelle Saddler, cut $450,000 from The Prairie Center’s budget this year.

“Hospitals and emergency rooms will also be notified regarding the impact of these cuts,” said Bruce Suardini, The Prairie Center CEO. “Between 700 and 800 patients will lose services each year.”

In Peoria, the Human Services Center is closing its women’s residential treatment program, eliminating capacity for 125 women annually and laying off 27 employees on September 23, 11 of whom will come from the women’s program. Saddler’s agency cut $2,000,000 from the Human Services Center budget this year.

“It’s shameful that the State is limiting access to treatment for women in need and turning them out of their shelter” said CEO Fred Nirdé.

Howe is calling on the governor and top human service budget lawmakers to restore funding to this year’s budget for substance abuse prevention and treatment.

“Governor Quinn and State Representative Sara Feigenholtz and State Senator Heather Steans need to restore funding to prevention and treatment services as soon as possible to avoid the piece-meal collapse of an Illinois behavioral health care system that is already in shambles,” said Howe.

Tax Money Flowing into Illinois Treasury Surges 13% in August

(Springfield, IL) — Taxpayers gave Illinois a $1.2-billion shot of cash in August, or $464 million more than last August.

Personal income tax revenue jumped by 68 percent for last month when compared with the same time in 2010, almost mirroring the personal income tax increase of 67 percent approved in January, according to a report issued by the Legislature’s Commission on Government Accountability and Forecasting, or COGFA, this week.

Overall, the state’s revenue jumped from $1.9 billion in August 2010 to $2.2 billion last month, an increase of 13 percent.

However, focusing on the month-to-month numbers won’t give an accurate picture of the state’s fiscal health, said Jim Muschinske, COGFA’s revenue manager and author of the August revenue report that outlines Illinois’ finances.

“I’ve been doing this for more than 20 years, and I don’t get excited over one month. There is just too much that happens on a month-by-month basis,” Muschinske said.

For example, income tax receipts from July through December, or the first half of fiscal 2012, might show big gains compared to last year. But those increases are only because of the income tax increase, and not because the state’s workforce or economy is doing better, according to the COGFA report.

The state also got a one-time shot of $73 million relating to the selling of a permit for and opening of the state’s 10th riverboat casino this summer in Des Plaines.

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Governor Pat Quinn Likely to Sign Illinois Budget Thursday

(Springfield, IL) — Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn may sign the 2012 state budget Thursday, but the spending plan is not a one-and-done deal.

“The budget is an on-going process,” said Quinn. “We have to work on it 365 days of the fiscal year.”

Quinn, who introduced a nearly $36 billion budget, said he is not happy with the $33.4 billion spending plan that Illinois lawmakers sent him, and he wants more spending in education and human services.

But while Quinn can shift around money in the budget, he cannot order more spending, said state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago.

“The governor has some limitations when he is acting on the budget,” said Feigenholtz. ”He cannot add. He can only (order) line-item reductions.”

But Feigenholtz, who helped write the human services portion of the state budget, said Quinn “should come back to the Legislature to ask us for more” money this fall. And Quinn agreed.

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Topinka Says State to Reap Nearly $100 Million from U.S. Government for Illinois Medicaid Bills

(Springfield, IL) — Illinois lawmakers on Wednesday approved a plan to delay a $365 million payment into Illinois’ rainy day fund, and instead use that money to pay some of the billions of dollars Illinois owes to Medicaid providers.

Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka said the state is racing to maximize a federal Medicaid match that expires at the end of the month. Illinois is getting 57 cents on the dollar for qualifying Medicaid bills that it pays this month. Starting in July, that rate falls back to the normal 50 cents on the dollar.

Maximizing the $365 million, Topinka said, should allow her to pay $1.85 billion in Medicaid bills by June 30. She estimates Illinois could receive an extra $90 million to $100 million from the federal government.

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Governor Pat Quinn Wants Illinois Budget to “Protect Core Priorities”

(Springfield, IL) — Illinois’ new budget may spend less than Gov. Pat Quinn’s original proposal, but it is higher than this past year’s budget and was balanced by delaying the payment of billions of dollars in unpaid bills until this current fiscal year.

“The governor has been clear … that while we put our fiscal house in order, we must continue to protect core priorities,” said Kelly Kraft, Quinn’s budget spokeswoman.

Quinn is “reviewing” the budget’s impact on human services and schools statewide, Kraft said, which were among those items lawmakers trimmed to reduce spending from Quinn’s $36 billion to $33.2 billion.

House Democratic budget architect Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, said the new spending priorities include Illinois’ $4 billion pension payment.

The budget “for the first time doesn’t hide the true costs of state government by taking the pensions off budget,” said Mautino. “We’re making all of our pension payments, which for the past three years we’ve had to borrow” to fund.

But pension payments are one piece of Illinois’ astronomical debt. In the proposed budget, lawmakers did not reduce the $4 billion in old bills on the desk of Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka. Instead, the state will take longer to pay these bills, including Medicaid payments

State Sen. Donne Trotter, D-Chicago, said lawmakers are spending as much as Illinois is expected to take in from taxpayers.

“This is a revenue-driven budget … versus a program-driven budget, which we’ve had in the past where we created programs and then tried to find money,” Trotter said.

State Rep. David Harris, R-Arlington Heights, said that if Illinois brings in more than $33.2 billion in tax revenue, that extra money will pay for past-due bills.

Benjamin Yount, Illinois Statehouse News

As Illinois Deadbeat Status Persists, Topinka Says “No” to Senator Sullivan Plan to Pay State Bills

(Springfield, IL) — For the upcoming year, Illinois lawmakers are weighing whether to pay bills with borrowed money or not pay businesses and local government money the state owes them.

Democrats are pushing the plan to borrow $6.2 billion in order to pay some of Illinois’ $8.2 billion in past-due bills.

Republicans say lawmakers have to stop borrowing and start cutting spending if Illinois is ever going to pay its bills and live within its means.

Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, who actually writes the checks for the state’s bills, said spending money now is not the solution.

“The basic restructuring has not been done; the cuts have not been made. The budget has not been brought back in line, which has to be basically flat,” said Topinka.

Topinka said Illinois is still spending more than it is taking in. She did not offer an amount to be cut from the budget, but she did say the $7 billion in revenue from the largest income tax increase in the state’s history, has been committed.

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Rutherford Says “No” to Paying Delinquent Illinois Bills with New Bond Borrowing

(Springfield, IL) — Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford on Monday said he cannot support adding to Illinois burgeoning debt.

The first-term Republican treasurer released his own report that states Illinois total debt would cost every household in the state $42,000. Rutherford arrived at the number by adding Illinois’ $140 billion in unfunded pension and health-care liabilities, the state’s $45 billion bond debt, and the nearly $8 billion in unpaid bills.

Rutherford said lawmakers must cut spending and live within their means in order for Illinois to pay off the debt.

“You can’t borrow anymore money,” said Rutherford. “And if I need to send letters to the rating companies to tell them the treasurer of Illinois is opposed to any more borrowing, I’ll go ahead and do that.”

Rutherford said alerting national rating agencies and bond houses could make it more expensive for Illinois to borrow. He said hopes that step would give lawmakers pause before asking for a billion dollars.

And while the state’s treasurer can only stop short-term borrowing, lawmakers are maneuvering to pass a measure through the General Assembly that would bypass any authority Rutherford has.

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Illinois Lawmakers Reprioritize Gov. Pat Quinn’s Illinois Human Services Budget

(Springfield, IL) — Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar may have different political views, but Quinn is dealing with a similar, but bigger, challenge than Edgar tackled during his tenure as governor.

Edgar faced a nearly $2 billion deficit in 1991. Quinn assumed office in 2009, inheriting a more than $13 billion deficit. Edgar left office in 1999 with a $1.5 billion surplus, crediting his success to raising the temporary tax which later became permanent, cutting state spending and saying “no” to new programs.

“That took time, and it took discipline,” Edgar said. “The governor, I think, has to provide that leadership. It’s hard for the legislature to do that.”

Quinn’s administration isn’t hoping for a budget surplus, but is expecting fiscal stability following proposed spending reductions and recent personal and corporate income tax increases.

Quinn’s proposed $35.4 billion spending plan for fiscal year 2012 aggressively slashes the overall human services budget by about $412 million, or 11 percent, one of the deepest reductions compared to other areas. For instance, the state’s transportation budget saw a 86 percent reduction, or $67 million, according to Quinn’s proposed agency funding figures.

However, other departments saw state funding increases, including:

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Illinois House Version of Illinois Budget Speeds to Conclusion

(Springfield, IL) — Illinois Budget plans in the Illinois House for higher education, public safety and general services are headed for full debate this week, while agreements on elementary and high school education and human services are close to a resolution.

“The House will have the budget done by next week,” state Rep. Luis Arroyo, D-Chicago, said.

The chamber set last Friday as the informal deadline to finalize detailed numbers for its estimated $33.2 billion total budget for next fiscal year.

State Rep. Kenneth Dunkin, D-Chicago, who heads the budget committee on higher education, said his group made it under the House’s higher education budget goal of $2.1 billion by targeting for-profit schools through the state’s monetary award program, or MAP.

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Our View: Senator Heather Steans’ Proposal to Cut Drug Treatment Budget 50%, Eliminating Care for 35,000, Is Misguided

State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago)

WHILE we recognize the State of Illinois continues to confront daunting budget deficits and the Illinois Senate Democratic caucus’ willingness to cuts its caucus budget 5% from last year is welcome, the proposal offered this week by State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) to cut state drug treatment funding by 50% and drug prevention by 100% is entirely misguided.

The Illinois General Assembly has bludgeoned and slashed the Illinois Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse budget for last several years, reducing the number of men, women, and children in treatment from 84,167 in fiscal year 2007 to only 70,378 in 2009.

The 50% reduction proposed by Steans, the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee for human services, means the number of people in addiction treatment services would drop precipitously to 35,189, causing the unemployment of 750 treatment staff under this scenario.

The 100% elimination of addiction prevention would deny service to 229,536 youth statewide and push 350 prevention staff out of jobs.

Meanwhile, Steans is proposing increased spending in other parts of the Illinois human services budget.

“State Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, said that chamber most likely will be increasing funds for community care programs and keeping child care funding level,” according to a report in the Illinois Statehouse News on May 4.

Of course, we believe community care and child-care program are also important human service programs. However, Steans’ plan to increase spending for some programs while slashing funding by 50% for critical addiction health care services that save the state $7 for every $1 spent on treatment is imprudent and ill-advised.

Fortunately, State Senators William Delgado (D-Chicago) and State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) recognize the value of substance abuse prevention and treatment services and oppose the proposed cuts.

Upon further review, we hope Senator Steans and other senators will too recognize the vital role addiction health care service plays in the Illinois health care system and propose a budget that equalizes necessary sacrifices.