* 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…
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.
* 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.