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Big human service cuts planned

Monday, Feb 7, 2011

* My weekly newspaper column

The state’s Secretary of Human Services met with a group representing child care providers last Monday and gave them some bad news. Prepare for $100 million in cuts to child care programs, Secretary Michelle Saddler told the group.

According to a participant in the meeting, Saddler said the state could freeze intake of new clients, “dramatically” increase parental co-pays, cut rates to providers and eliminate child care for parents who are in school or employment-related training.

The meeting resulted in an urgent alert by Illinois Action for Children imploring supporters to immediately call the governor’s office.

The $100 million cut would be for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends June 30. That cut would equal about a third of the child care program’s remaining budget, which comes from both state and federal revenue sources.

After initially refusing to confirm that the Secretary of Human Services had warned activists about that impending $100 million cut to child care programs, the governor’s budget office finally shed some light on the matter later in the week.

The cuts are not “new” cuts, according to the budget office. Instead, a spokesperson claimed, these are cuts that were ordered last year and are just now being implemented.

So, in other words, the Quinn administration waited until after the election and after the state income tax hike was passed to implement huge cuts to a program for mostly poor, single-mother families. And because the administration waited so long, the cuts are now more than twice as deep as they would have been had they been executed at the start of the fiscal year in July.

But, of course, making those cuts last summer would have hurt Quinn with his core constituencies and he needed every possible vote he could get. Women, the poor, minorities and liberal voters would have been outraged by major cuts to child care programs, which help poor families get on their feet. Now, they all can be safely tossed overboard. The election is over.

Liberals and minorities in the House and Senate almost all voted for the income tax hike, believing that the worst cuts were behind them. The deed is done, so the cuts now can be announced.

David Ormsby, a public relations consultant, claimed last week that Saddler’s department is looking at perhaps $400 million in overall cuts — equal to 10 percent of her department’s entire budget.

But since the fiscal year is more than half over, a 10 percent budget cut to the department now would be equal to more than a 20 percent reduction in the department’s remaining outlays.

Quinn sharply criticized state Sen. Bill Brady on the campaign trail last year for proposing an across-the-board cut of 10 percent, but Quinn apparently is planning to double that amount in one of the departments which he has claimed he holds dear.

And to add insult to injury, Quinn is encouraging groups and businesses that have contracts with the Department of Human Services to lobby legislators for a long-term borrowing plan to pay off the state’s past-due bills. The state owes service providers billions of dollars because it didn’t have the cash to pay them on time until the tax hike passed. Many of those providers work in the human service field. So, now Quinn wants them to work to get the money they’re owed while he’s simultaneously eviscerating their funding.

The word “chutzpah” comes to mind.

The state didn’t have enough revenue to pay for the programs it had for the past few years. That’s why we were in such a hole. And everybody at the Statehouse knew that budget cuts would have to happen even after the income tax rate was increased.

But concealing cuts to child care — of all things — until after the election and after that tax hike vote is just downright shameful.

Some think Quinn is trying to create panic by announcing these cuts and then using that angst as leverage to find legislative votes for his borrowing plan. He’s done this sort of thing before, only to back off at the last minute. But using poor single moms as human shields would not be his finest hour, to say the least.

This whole thing makes me sick to my stomach.

* And the Quinn administration is actively lobbying vendors and human service providers to push for the governor’s borrowing bill

The administration Friday began contacting 36,000 vendors owed money by the state, urging them to call on their lawmakers to support the borrowing bill. Employees in the administration and state agencies are calling each of the vendors, said Quinn spokeswoman Brie Callahan.

About 100 people were making the calls, including people on Quinn’s staff, legislative liaisons, government interns and regional staffers with the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

“This is a legislative issue,” Callahan said. “This is something the governor has said from the beginning we need to do. Our goal is to help educate vendors.”

Calls and e-mails also are going out to human-service providers asking them similarly to have their clients contact lawmakers, she said. The state also is getting in touch with umbrella organizations, such as the Illinois State Chamber of Commerce.

From the e-mail sent to human service providers that was signed by the governor…

Dear Friends,

This is a call to action. I am writing to ask you to support Senate Bill 3, a debt restructuring plan to pay Illinois’ bills.

As you know, for too long, the State of Illinois has failed to pay its bills - ‘balancing’ its books on the backs of its vendors, health care organizations, and social service agencies.

Not mentioned: They’re going to balance the books on the backs of providers again.

* Related…

* New Medicaid law: Needed reform or ‘Scrooge-like’?: Opponents of the state’s recently signed Medicaid reform law say it will kick thousands of children off public health insurance and hinder the state’s ability to convince low-income families to apply for coverage in the All Kids program. “It’s kind of Scrooge-like,” said Stephanie Altman, policy director of Chicago-based Health & Disability Advocates.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

29 Comments
  1. - Aldyth - Monday, Feb 7, 11 @ 7:27 am:

    The hypocrisy of the whole thing is sending steam out of my ears. I hope the voters of Illinois remember this four years from now and send Quinn back into obscurity.


  2. - Fed-Up - Monday, Feb 7, 11 @ 7:32 am:

    I am among those who believe this is just a ploy to garner votes for his borrowing plan. When and if the time comes he will not make these cuts at the levels suggested because he lacks the backbone to do so. I really get tired of these loathsome games.


  3. - GoldCoastConservative - Monday, Feb 7, 11 @ 8:23 am:

    What’s that old expression - “you get the government you deserve.” The voters of the state chose Quinn, so we should not complain too loudly when he tries his hardest to earn the title of worst Governor in the nation.


  4. - Demoralized - Monday, Feb 7, 11 @ 8:54 am:

    This whole continuing circus continues to tick me off. The reason: cuts in these types of areas are unfortunately going to be necessary b/c that is where the big money is. Quinn needs to make peace with that fact and figure out a way to best make the cuts and move on.


  5. - Bigtwich - Monday, Feb 7, 11 @ 9:02 am:

    The Human Service budget was cut $500,000,000 last year when the budget was passes. These cuts should not be a surprise. What is a surprise, and disappointment, is that they have not been announced before now. Still, I do not see this related to the borrowing plan. I understood that plan was to eliminate the backlog in payments not to restore budget cuts. Still, I seem to understand less with each passing year.


  6. - Responsa - Monday, Feb 7, 11 @ 9:12 am:

    ==Liberals and minorities in the House and Senate almost all voted for the income tax hike, believing that the worst cuts were behind them. ==

    As a citizen I am sorry to see this if it is indeed true. Many of us, and especially many of us who had already observed Quinn’s modus operandi did not believe for a moment that the worst cuts were behind us or that the monetary shell games were over.


  7. - Responsa - Monday, Feb 7, 11 @ 9:19 am:

    == I hope the voters of Illinois remember this four years from now and send Quinn back into obscurity==

    Aldyth- a good sentiment. But quite honestly what do people know about Quinn today that was not already obvious last November? Why is there any reason to hope that it will be different next election time?


  8. - cassandra - Monday, Feb 7, 11 @ 9:21 am:

    If the families are kicked off Medicaid they will be able to reapply in 2014 when the federal health reform law kicks in fully. Presumably, the families losing coverage will have some means, so they are more able to purchase coverage temporarily on the market. This is not an irrational decision on the part of decision-makers, and my guess is that there are some programs that could provide a bridge to 2014 for the truly desperate. Rules are presumably being written now for 2014. They could move some implementation dates up, I bet.

    One alternative would have been to cut off or reduce coverage to undocumented immigrants, for whom Illinois gets no federal match (and will not, I suppose, in 2014). Undocumented immigrants were responsible for a substantial part of the Allkids increase-enrollment and costs.

    This is a good example of a tough decision. Cut off or reduce coverage to undocumented immigrants
    or cut off/reduce coverage to lower middle class families regardless of immigrant status. Or make no cuts at all, with health reform on the horizon. This governor and legislature chose, once again, to ding the middle class. Not sure how long that will work.


  9. - Bill White - Monday, Feb 7, 11 @ 9:27 am:

    “[E]verybody at the Statehouse knew that budget cuts would have to happen even after the income tax rate was increased. But concealing cuts to child care — of all things — until after the election and after that tax hike vote is just downright shameful.”

    True, it is shameful.

    However, if Quinn had telegraphed these particular cuts last summer, maybe Bill Brady would have been elected and in that case, wouldn’t the spending cuts to human services now be much, much deeper?

    Stretching a twin sized blanket to cover a king sized bed can’t been done with rhetoric, although Illinois politicians have been trying to do exactly that for decades.


  10. - cassandra - Monday, Feb 7, 11 @ 9:43 am:

    It’s still borrowed money, if the borrowing bill passes. We have to pay it back.

    Perhaps through a permanent extension of the Dems’ temporary income tax hike on the middle class?


  11. - Aldyth - Monday, Feb 7, 11 @ 9:53 am:

    Responsa - A lot of people voted for Quinn because they couldn’t possibly vote for extreme right wing Brady. I’m predicting that Quinn will have all of the dirty work to do and will be enormously unpopular in four years.

    The Republicans need to find a fiscal conservative and social moderate to run for governor. Quinn will be so unpopular, he won’t run for re-election and Lisa Madigan will be the Democratic candidate.

    Meanwhile, we have to put up with him for the next four years.


  12. - wordslinger - Monday, Feb 7, 11 @ 10:26 am:

    I guess I’m not terribly outraged or surprised by any of this. The political class, including Dem and GOP lawmakers, mealy-mouthed the repercussions of the structural deficit and the recession for two years leading up to the election.

    Back of the enveloped calculations made it obvious during all that hemming and hawing that more revenues and big cuts were going to be needed to even begin to right the ship. And that it was all going to hurt.


  13. - nieva - Monday, Feb 7, 11 @ 10:41 am:

    So let’s see if I have this straight Pat knew that these cuts would happen but he ran against Bill saying the evil Republicans were going to slash services that had to be saved. Now Pat is up to his neck in a budget that must be cut or the powers to be in New York will cut his ability to borrow money. Is it time for us to ask when someone with some common sense is going to step up and make the choices that will save this state from what appears to be bankruptcy?


  14. - Southwest - Monday, Feb 7, 11 @ 10:45 am:

    Was anyone else surprised by this paragraph in the “new medicaid law” article linked above… “2010 audit revealed that 54,000 of the 71,600 children added to Medicaid …were undocumented immigrants. They accounted for most of the expansion’s $70 million net cost to the state in 2009.”


  15. - Irish - Monday, Feb 7, 11 @ 11:01 am:

    “Two Faced Pat” continues to show by his actions how much he resembles his mentor Rod.


  16. - 47th Ward - Monday, Feb 7, 11 @ 11:15 am:

    How you cut is as important as how much you cut. If I understand this correctly, the Quinn administration decided to hold off on making the cuts passed by the General Assembly until after the election. I had been defending them for making some meaningful cuts, but the way they are doing this now is inexcusable and downright dumb.

    Quinn needed to use the budget crisis to reinvent some areas of government service delivery, and despite ample opportunity, he failed to do so. Now, with a few months left in the fiscal year, he’s bludgeoning Human Services?

    So up until now, the only “cuts” were on paper. He got his income tax hike, and now here comes the ax. And because he hasn’t implemented any smart, modern management reforms, we likely won’t save what he promises and real people will be hurt.


  17. - shore - Monday, Feb 7, 11 @ 11:18 am:

    If any of these statehouse democrats try to move up the foodchain and win seats in congress attack ad number 1 will inevitably be that abc republican voted to cut def service for kids. Now republicans will have ammo to fire back at them.


  18. - Retired Non-Union Guy - Monday, Feb 7, 11 @ 11:27 am:

    Without weighing the pros / cons of the borrowing plan or the cuts, one issue no one seems to be addressing here is the apparent use of State employees to push the borrowing agenda. If it were State employees pushing a particular political candidate on State time, it would (I think) clearly be illegal even under this State’s lax ethics laws. Is the use of State employees to push a party’s political agenda illegal or just immoral? (I really don’t know the answer because I always tried to stay out of the political side of things …)


  19. - JN - Monday, Feb 7, 11 @ 11:33 am:

    For the comparison Blago’s tenure, were you people even paying attention? Rod’s practice was to expand welfare while ignoring bills passed by the legislature.

    Yeah this is underhanded, but it is also legal. This isn’t Brady’s 10% across the board but not really cut. Instead it is a specific 20% cut, with all the political risk that goes with actually proposing an actionable change that can reduce the deficit.


  20. - Rod - Monday, Feb 7, 11 @ 11:37 am:

    The issue of the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) budget cuts is confused, because on July 1, 2010 when Governor Quinn signed into law SB3660: Emergency Budget Act, and SB3662: Budget Implementation Act IDHS was supposed to have developed a new amended budget. Overall, funding for the Department of Human Services was reduced by $312.6 million in July for fiscal year 2011. In FY 2010 the budget was $4.047 billion and the final budget was $3.734 billion. (To see the actual cuts to IDHS one needs to go to http://www.illinois.gov/PressReleases/ShowPressRelease.cfm?SubjectID=10&RecNum=8583 and click FY 2011 budget by agency.)

    The cuts made in July to IDHS were:

    $49.8 million from operations
    $262.8 million from grants

    Now as far as I can tell IDHS never developed a revised budget post signing of the Emergency Budget Act, what exists on the IDHS website is actually a pre-July 2010 proposed budget drafted in March 2010. Rich’s quote from David Ormsby indicated that IDHS is looking at “perhaps $400 million in overall cuts.” If this number is correct then IDHS would be issuing about an additional $87 million in cuts. The Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, (Kelly Kraft to be exact) is telling people that these are not new cuts but rather planned reductions that the state is continuing to work to implement. Which may be in part true and in part false depending on the actual total number reduced.

    Part of the problem is that the Governor ripped Michelle R.B. Saddler, the Secretary, out of office for several months, to act as his chief of staff. An acting director was put in charge as a care taker and did not implement the cuts for even formally develop a revised overall budget as far as I can tell.

    Senate Bill 3, the borrowing bill is not about current spending, but rather about money owed to vendors and how it will be paid. The Governor’s letter to service providers on this bill is consistent with the position of Responsible Budget Coalition and is supported by most human services providers. So I do not see this as ” using poor single moms as human shields” in the battle for the borrowing bill. The fiscal situation is confused enough, this all is making it more confused. It would help if IDHS would post its actual budget on line. By the way I am opposed to cuts Illinois Action for Children are discussing, they are wrong now as they were in July.


  21. - A Citizen - Monday, Feb 7, 11 @ 12:15 pm:

    How did the Recall Authority for voters come out? Could be about time to give it a try!


  22. - VanillaMan - Monday, Feb 7, 11 @ 12:26 pm:

    Why is this surprising?
    We do not have other cuts to make. This is a state budget.
    There are few options. We have no money. That tax increase could not do it alone.

    We all knew this. For five years at least we have been saying that the need requires both tax increases and cuts. Where have you been?

    Is the spending mentality so ingrained that many legislators still believe we can just raise taxes to fix these fiscal disasters? Geez folks wake the @%# up!

    With Quinn it was going to be raise taxes then cut.
    With Brady it was going to be cut then raise taxes.
    We cannot afford this herd of sacred cows.
    We cannot afford this herd mentality.


  23. - cassandra - Monday, Feb 7, 11 @ 12:36 pm:

    Well, the alternative is to keep borrowing as well as spending until he leaves office or the economy improves. Looks like we might be heading in that direction. And the Republicans might just go along, since they can evade responsibility as well. The easy button. As always. And there is no indication so far that that the financial sector won’t lend us money–albeit at a slightly higher price as the debt grows.

    Why are we so sure there will be cuts? This is Illinois, remember. We love to borrow.


  24. - Bigtwich - Monday, Feb 7, 11 @ 12:41 pm:

    ==The issue of the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) budget cuts is confused,==

    Thank you Rod. That helps put this in perspective.


  25. - dave - Monday, Feb 7, 11 @ 3:57 pm:

    Is the use of State employees to push a party’s political agenda illegal or just immoral?

    Neither. The Governor’s office has every right to lobby on an issue. Every single administration has legislative liaisons (or, more accurately, lobbyists).

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with the Governor engaging in advocacy/lobbying efforts for any issue. The Governor (and his staff) lobbied on the tax increase. They lobbied on civil unions. And they can, and SHOULD, lobby on the debt restructuring.


  26. - Rich Miller - Monday, Feb 7, 11 @ 3:59 pm:

    dave is correct.

    However, the irony of lobbying people to support borrowing while cutting their budgets is still quite rich.


  27. - Small Town Liberal - Monday, Feb 7, 11 @ 4:16 pm:

    - However, the irony of lobbying people to support borrowing while cutting their budgets is still quite rich. -

    I agree to a point, but these folks probably realize that if they want the state’s finances to improve so they can get through these cuts and see some of that funding restored in the future, we’re going to have to do something about the current debt.


  28. - Retired Non-Union Guy - Monday, Feb 7, 11 @ 4:22 pm:

    Dave / Rich, Thanks for the answer.

    Personally, I think the borrowing is the right thing to do so the backlog can get paid. I have no problem with the Gov using his “bully pulpit” to advocate it, because that is his job, to take a position that may or may not conflict with the legislature. And I have no problem with the Gov’s office staff lobbying the Legislature because, again, that’s part of the job.

    But if it is regular agency employees (assuming it is employees and not the liaisons / lobbyists) being made to push it, then I find it grating that our tax dollars are being used to take an advocacy position instead of delivering services.


  29. - jake - Monday, Feb 7, 11 @ 5:15 pm:

    The problem is, there won’t be 10% cuts across the board–I don’t think. 10% cut on human services is selectively beating up those least able to protect themselves.


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