* Jamey Dunn has a really good take on yesterday’s House budget action. Go read the whole thing…
Debate on the bills was lacking in the House in part because lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were uncertain about the details of the budget. For example, none of the key budgeting players in the chamber were able to give a definitive answer on the total spending number for the plan. All the responses were between $35 billion and $36 billion, but nobody knew the number spot on.
The bills were worked out in House budgeting committees, but many Republicans on those committees said they were not included in negotiations. Complaints aired by Republicans on the floor were primarily about the process and not the specifics of the budget itself, which they say they got this morning. “This is not a good budgeting process when you don’t know what you’re talking about. You don’t know what you’re advancing,” said Rep. Ron Sandack, a Downers Grove Republican.
“I guess that the speed-reading classes that you’ve taken are paying off over there. Thank God. But the process has been a complete joke,” Elmhurst Republican Rep. Dennis Reboletti said to Democrats on the House floor. “You do this every year, and then you’re surprised that we’re not working with you, or that we’re angry or frustrated.” Democrats said they tried to include Republicans, but that many did not attend meetings held budgeting committees yesterday. They say that because Republicans have been unwilling to vote for budgets in recent years, they likely would not have been in favor of the plan, no matter what the process.
Those Democrats who crafted the proposal were able to keep the budget relatively flat by tapping into some well-worn creative budgeting tactics, such as delaying payment for some spending obligations, adjusting revenue estimates up and borrowing from funds outside of general spending. Democrats say that the moves freed up about $2 billion. Most of the tactics are short-term solutions or one-time sources of funding. […]
But flat funding does not mean that the budget picture is rosy. The bill backlog would grow substantially and there would be layoffs under the plan, according to those who worked most closely on it. “As the year goes on, things are going to get tighter and tighter in our departments,” said Rep. Greg Harris, who chairs the House human services budgeting committee. Harris said that the budget would likely increase the state’s stack of unpaid bills by “a couple billions of dollars” and would result in “thousands” of layoffs of state workers.
It’s a heckuva way to run a railroad.
Rosier revenue estimates, long a staple of Statehouse budgets, also are on the table this time. The state is now estimating it will collect another $200 million in the new budget year that starts July 1.
That’s kinda misleading. The revenue estimates are from COGFA, not pulled out of thin air. And the overall estimates are not as optimistic as the governor’s.
* Some of the cuts…
At the Illinois State Police, for example, the new plan scraps a new cadet class at a time when the agency already has a problem with overtime costs because of a manpower shortage.
At the Department of Children and Family Services, workers will face bigger caseloads.
Spending on mental health and programs for developmentally disabled people would be cut in order to divert money to comply with federal regulations. […]
Education funding actually rises slightly under the plan, but overall aid to schools remains at about 89 percent of what officials say is adequate. Universities will receive roughly the same amount they are getting this year.
* More cuts…
“People will not stop being disabled, people will not stop getting elderly simply because we don’t have the ability to raise the revenue to pay for it,” said Harris, who chairs the human services appropriations committee. “So the providers are going to be faced with the fact they are going to be serving those people until their appropriation runs out.” […]
But the budget also would cut $137 million from community care programs that serve the elderly at home. Another $7.8 million would be cut from programs that provide in-home care for the disabled. Funding for child care for the poor would be cut by $24 million, one legislative analysis showed.
Also eliminated would be $10 million for grants for after-school programs and another $15 million that funded anti-violence programs that arose from Quinn’s troubled Neighborhood Recovery Initiative. Republicans argued the Democrats moved money into different agencies to keep some of the programs going.
Asked if the budget bill passed by the House could lead to layoffs, Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, chairman of the Human Services Appropriations Committee, said, “Yes, probably thousands of people.”
Steans said the Department of Human Services alone warned of 1,500 job cuts under the so-called doomsday budget during budget hearings this spring.
Harris also said agencies may be forced to leave jobs unfilled if people retire or leave for other reasons.
However, Rep. Fred Crespo, D-Hoffman Estates, chair of the General Services Appropriations Committee, said layoffs aren’t necessarily certain.
“Some agencies are going to have to make decisions based on the money they have,” Crespo said. “They can probably cut elsewhere to make sure they meet those needs. I don’t think they necessarily have to let people go.”
* Gov. Quinn’s react…
Quinn’s office called the spending plan that advanced Tuesday “incomplete.”
“The budget doesn’t avoid the tough decisions. It just postpones them,” said his spokeswoman, Brooke Anderson.
* And the last word goes to Reuters…
The fate of the income tax increase is being tracked by Wall Street credit rating agencies, which already have Illinois at the lowest ratings among states, largely due to its $100 billion unfunded pension liability.