SEUI Healthcare Launches TV, Radio Ads to Fight Illinois Budget Cuts

(Springfield, IL) —  The Services Employees International Union for Healthcare in Illinois and Indiana has been placing television and radio advertisements throughout the state, hoping to deter lawmakers from cutting dollars for child care and home care services for the elderly.

“These ads are really about educating the public and educating lawmakers about the importance of these programs and the critical role that they play in providing family support and care for tens of thousands of Illinois families,” said Brynn Seibert, spokeswoman for SEIU Healthcare.

In a recently released SEIU radio advertisement, the organization features a participant of the Illinois Home Service Program saying that even if funding disappears, his disability won’t. In a TV spot, a working couple from Joliet talks about the need for the state’s child care assistance program. The advertisement ends by urging viewers to tell state legislators to avoid cuts to child care.

David Morrison, deputy director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, said advocacy groups typically create media campaigns to encourage the public to lobby their lawmakers.

“(But) because it’s so removed from the outcomes, groups are usually reluctant to take that kind of effort, to put those resources in that kind of effort, when it’s much more direct for them to send their lobbyists over to talk to a public official,” Morrison said.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Illinois Senate, House Lack Agreement on Illinois Budget Revenue Estimates

Springfield, IL) — March 31, 2011. A budgetary battle could be brewing in the state Capitol, but not necessarily between Republicans and Democrats.

House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) and House Republican Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) appeared together Wednesday morning to deliver a joint message of fiscal discipline.

Madigan and Cross’ relationship has been cold in the past. It appeared Wednesday, however, that the two have teamed up to start pushing pieces of legislation that could end up being parts of the state’s budget.

The united front in the Illinois House could mean that this year’s budget could pit senators against state representatives, instead of the traditional Democrat vs. Republican.

A recently passed law requires that the Legislature lay out how much money it will have to spend before deciding who gets what. Governor Pat Quinn’s office, the House and the state Senate have all come up with different revenue projections.

Reconciling those, and therefore the different chamber’s budget bills, could be troublesome.

Madigan laid out one possibility Wednesday during the Elementary and Secondary Education Appropriations Committee. When the Senate and the House can’t come to some kind of agreement on a specific bill, five members from each chamber meet and try to hammer out the details in a conference committee.

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As Other States Health Cut Care for the Poor, Gov. Pat Quinn Embraces Illinois Medicaid Reform, Patient Care Safeguards

(Springfield, IL) — States across the nation are ratcheting down Medicaid services and eligibility to hold down costs, but Illinois officials are standing by Medicaid reforms passed in January that Republicans claim just skim the surface.

The $14 billion state-federal program offers health insurance for mostly low-income children, pregnant women, parents with young children, senior citizens and the disabled. Chief among the reforms passed in January were a requirement to move 50 percent of the state’s 2.8 million Medicaid participants to a “medical home” within the next four years through “coordinated” or managed care, and to move residents from nursing homes and other institutional care into community-based settings.

Illinois Senate Republicans believe the state can do better than the $800 million in savings expected from the reforms during the next five years.

“That was a good step one,” said state Sen. Pam Althoff, R- Crystal Lake, who served on the Medicaid reform task force. “But there’s now a step two.”

Julie Hamos, director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, noted the reforms are intended to keep people healthy and thereby hold down costs.

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Governor Pat Quinn Seeks $2 Billion Loan to Pay Overdue Illinois Medicaid Bills

(Springfield, IL) — Is Gov. Pat Quinn’s latest plan a cash advance from the federal government, or another multi-billion dollar borrowing plan?

Quinn wants to borrow $2 billion in short-term loans to help pay off the state’s backlog of debt, totaling $9 billion to $10 billion. About half will go toward paying Medicaid vendors before the enhanced federal match rate drops to 50 percent on July 1. The other half will go toward settling debts with group insurance providers.

“The (governor) feels strongly that we should not leave hundreds of millions of dollars in enhanced federal Medicaid match on the table and is working with legislators on a plan to restructure approximately a billion dollars immediately to take advantage of the enhanced rate prior to its expiration,” said Quinn spokeswoman Kelly Kraft.

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