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The budget is about people

Monday, Jan 30, 2012

* Imagine, if you will, the horrific anguish that the parents of this 14 year-old boy (named “N.B.” in this story) are going through

N.B. has been placed in a psychiatric hospital 14 times, where he stays an average of three weeks. N.B. is extremely aggressive, doesn’t talk and has been diagnosed with moderate to severe mental retardation, autism spectrum disorder, intermittent explosive disorder, mood disorder, disruptive behavior disorder and more, the lawsuit states. He also has “a history of maladaptive and self-injurious behaviors, including hitting himself in the head, scratching himself and biting his hand.”

The parents have filed a lawsuit against the state to force it to provide better home-care treatment programs. According to their lawyer, the system is downright unfair

“Some parents are told they can’t get funding for their child’s treatment and they reach a point where they don’t pick the child up from the psychiatric hospital because they’re a danger to their other siblings,” Farley said. “Then DCFS gets called and they take custody. The parents get residential treatment (for the child), but they’ve given up custody, and that shouldn’t have to be.”

The class action lawsuit could affect more than 18,000 kids with severe problems in Illinois alone. So, as the talk turns to cutting Medicaid, keep this heartbreaking story in mind. As the headline says, the budget is about people.

* And then there’s this

An attorney for Gov. Pat Quinn faced blistering questioning by legislators Friday on why the governor didn’t quickly fire the head of the state’s child-welfare agency last year after a report of fraudulent billing under his watch.

At a hearing in Chicago, Rep. Jack Franks called it “cowardice” on the part of Quinn’s office to ask for Erwin McEwen’s resignation from his post as chief of the Department of Children and Family Services rather than fire him. State inspectors had found that a friend of the former director collected millions of dollars for shoddy or non-existent work.

“I can’t believe the cowardice,” Franks exclaimed in reaction to Quinn’s general counsel, John Schomberg, who had said that accepting a resignation instead of firing an employee can avoid a lawsuit.

“Let him sue,” Franks said, his voice rising. “Who cares? Do what’s right.”

* More

State ethics investigators say they may never know the full extent of an alleged contracting scheme that they say cost taxpayers at least $18 million and led to last year’s resignation of the head of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

The comments came during a legislative hearing Friday examining a probe that found numerous violations by George E. Smith, who held various state contracts across a number of agencies, including DCFS.

The state executive inspector general’s office accused Smith of forging documents, presentingfalse information about grant funds for after-school services, submitting budgets that allowed him to conceal funds, and accepting payments he was not entitled to receive.

But Executive Inspector General Ricardo Meza said the wrongdoing may go further, as the state only investigated contracts Smith held dating back to 2008. Smith has been doing businesses with the state since 1986.

Sometimes, as in this case, the budget can be about the wrong people.

* And sometimes, a governor wants to do things that the state cannot afford

Watch for Quinn propose a tax cut targeting families with children Wednesday at his State of the State address. “This tax cut will benefit almost 1.5 million families in Illinois, by putting more money in their pockets,” a top source said.


“We need to understand that by targeting tax relief for the people who need it the most, that’s a very important mission for us this year in Illinois. We have to help our veterans too. We have a veterans hiring tax credit that I’ll be speaking about Wednesday. We want to make sure our employers are hiring veterans because they have the discipline, the teamwork, the leadership and the skill to get a job done, “said Quinn.

* Related and a roundup…

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- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Shock & Awww(e) - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 12:43 pm:

    Shuffling people into home-treatment rather than group or residential treatment makes it much harder to shine a light on problems in the system. One lone patient or family is much easier to ignore than an entire facility calling attention to problems.

    As for the targeted tax breaks? We just extended the Earned Income Tax Credit a month ago. That targets the “people who need it most”.

    We’re spending more on tax breaks than the tax increase is raising. Geez.

  2. - Plutocrat03 - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 1:17 pm:

    Free money for all!

    Free money for Sears
    Free money for CME
    Free money for all who need it

    Remind me who is left to pay for everything?

  3. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 1:22 pm:

    The editorial calling for a re-examination of the policy of incarcerating non-violent drug offenders is refreshing.

    Cost to taxpayers: about $400 million a year.

  4. - shore - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 1:45 pm:

    your handling of the kirk matter has been one of your finest moments in terms of the respect you’ve shown the senator and sincere desire for his well being. But I need to disagree with the jacksonville newspaper. The senator was elected by the people of Illinois to a 6 year term. He’s starting year 2. He still has a staff which goes to work every day and has yet to miss a defining vote and it’s wrong to start calling for a debate over his future and whether he can handle the duties. Over the last 15 years there have been countless senators in far worse shape than where the senator is now-strom thurmond, jesse helms, robert byrd, ted kennedy, (did we forget where obama was during his term-not in dc in 2007)-all of which were 20-30 years older who have been able to do their jobs far more effectively despite their illness than people much younger and in perfect health-minnesota senator mark dayton comes to mind. If anything my experience working with those staffs demonstrated that their bosses health issues prompted them to really improve the quality of their work as they came together and wanted to show Washington, their boss and their state that nothing had changed. He needs our support now-not a rush to judgement or to criticize.

  5. - mokenavince - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 1:55 pm:

    I think Quinn will never be considered the Donald
    Trump of Governors.
    When comes to kids he should act as quickly as possible.Franks my have a point.

  6. - Shock & Awww(e) - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 1:59 pm:

    @shore - more recently, there’s a Dem. Senator from South Dakota named Tim Johnson who endured similar travails.

    It was nearly 10 months until he returned to a full Senate schedule. In the meantime, his colleagues helped fundraise, etc. for his re-election. He won, and still serves today. At the time, staffers in his office would have told you basically the same things you point out in your last two sentences.

  7. - steve schnorf - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 2:07 pm:

    I feel obligated to remind people that the state does not have enough revenues to support the spending we currently do. We must cut. Those cuts are going to be painful to someone. Governor Quinn and the GA are going to have to decide how to apportion the pain that is going to be inflicted. They and we are going to disagree among ourselves as to what the right apportionment is.

    To do otherwise (or to fail to raise taxes substantially again, an idea I consider a non-starter) would be an abdication of their responsibility and would set a course to financial disaster. After raising taxes by $7B, it should simply be unacceptable to continue deficit spending as a normal course of business.

  8. - Holdingontomywallet - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 2:39 pm:

    “- Plutocrat03 - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 1:17 pm:

    Free money for all!

    Free money for Sears
    Free money for CME
    Free money for all who need it

    Remind me who is left to pay for everything?”

    Based on recent news and the gov’s comments, it appears if you are lower to middle class, own a home, and don’t have kids - you are going to get drilled with more taxes.

  9. - Dirty Red - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 2:47 pm:

    = Watch for Quinn propose a tax cut =

    Speaking of cowardice, here again comes the re-election campaign. (June will be the end of the first 18 months of Quinn’s new term.)

  10. - Aldyth - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 2:56 pm:

    One of my nieces has bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and borderline personality disorder. She’s 21, but they’ve been dealing with this since she was 12. They’re to the point where they need residential placement for her, because when the cops are called, it’s because she is a danger to her parents.

    My brother and his wife sleep with their bedroom door locked and the pets in their bedroom so there is less of a likelihood of any of them being hurt.

    This is sure a jolly way to live. Their alternative is to toss her out, because there is no help to be found in Illinois. It has been cut to the degree that she can live in their home or she can live on the streets.

    How would you like to be a parent with those options?

  11. - Ace Matson - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 3:18 pm:

    I agree with Jack Franks: Let McEwen sue! It would cost him money, he would subject himself to a deposition under oath, and he would lose. he’s a department head, and can be fired at will!

    As to Sen. Kirk: Shame on the Jacksonville paper! The Senator is recovering. And does anybody trust Pat Quinn to make an honorable Senate appointment to a seat won at the ballot box by Republicans? Hang in there, Senator Kirk!

  12. - carbaby - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 3:44 pm:

    There has already very recently been significant work put forth in developing an overhaul of DCFS Statewide monitoring which is a more streamlined system that includes contract monitoring- which is much more efficient, centralized and will have more established checks and balances. I hope that this proposal passes very soon so that this can come to fruition.
    But speaking of contracts- one of the first line items in DCFS budget that I would get rid of would be the $250,000 that is given to the Walter Payton Foundation(no disrepect) for appearance fees to maybe 2 events and donated toys(which as of this year were not available for Intact families). I could find much better use of this money for services in Cook and Northern regions than the stuff they give to our foster children- which essentially are rejects and discounted items.
    My understanding is that there is more investigation going on currently. Part of the downfall of OEIG is that they were not developed to investigate malfeasance and misfeasance(as with DCFS OIG) but for mainly ethics violations- which is the majority of their investigations. I do know that they were hoping Mac’s case would be a push for their ability to expand their investigative abilities.

  13. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 4:13 pm:

    @Schnorf - It depends on how you define “painful.”

    Who, exactly, would feel “pain” if we repealed the sales tax expenditure for prescription drugs?

    Who, exactly, would feel the “pain” if we stopped incarcerating non-violent drug offenders?

    There are lots of ways to budget smarter by setting clear goals and priorities about what state government will or will not do.

  14. - Peggy R/Southern - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 5:06 pm:

    As far as the disabled boy and the budget are concerned. Yes, the budget is people. But there are tons of people who are able to care for themselves and their children, as I mentioned last week re the 40% unwed births data. I think states have always provided for those who could not function in society even w/the help of their families. That’s a vital public service. But, the state is funding the lives of too many people who can and should take responsibility for themselves, and the children they create.

  15. - steve schnorf - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 5:17 pm:

    Dog, if people paying higher taxes doesn’t fit you definition of “pain”, then for once we disagree. The only way to save money by stopping incarcerating non-violent drug offenders is by closing prisons and reducing the Corrections work force. I’m quite certain those displaced workers would consider that painful.

    I might agree with you that those two “pains” are preferable to reducing funding for programs for abused children or senior citizens, but others might not. I repeat, the questions isn’t “if”, it is too whom and how.

  16. - Peggy R/Southern - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 5:23 pm:

    And re: Sen Kirk. No one would have thought of vying for Gabby Giffords seat given the severity of her injuries. This is premature to presume Sen. Kirk should resign.

  17. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Monday, Jan 30, 12 @ 9:24 pm:

    @Schnorf -

    If this is the first time you’ve disagreed with me, that’s high praise indeed!

    I guess it does indeed depend on your definition of “pain.”

    Regarding the sales tax exemption for prescription drugs, Illinois has a gross domestic product of $644 Billion. The combined sales tax expenditure for food, drugs and medical equipment is just over $1.5 billion. Less than 1/4 of 1% of GDP, a fraction of a percent.

    But, that 1/4 of 1% is a HUGE hole in our state budget. Its the single largest tax expenditure in the budget, nearly as large as the next two combined, and accounts for one-fourth of the tax breaks we provide.

    Like Speaker Madigan, I don’t pretend to know the history of every detail of the state budget. I’m almost certain that the exemption was started a long, long time ago with the laudable goal of ensuring that food and groceries were affordable for seniors and the working poor.

    But since then we’ve created and expanded the EITC, we’ve created and expanded Medicare Rx drug benefits and Medicaid Rx benefits…all kinds of much more targeted and more efficient solutions.

    Meanwhile, when the Pritzkers slip into Treasure Island or Whole Foods to buy lobster and brie for their soiree, they aren’t paying any state sales tax.

    But back to my original point: less than a quarter of a percent. Not only are Illinoisans not going to feel any pain if this tax expenditure goes away, they aren’t even going to be uncomfortable.

    But, if it makes you feel better, use half the revenue to reduce the overall sales tax rate as part of a sales tax reform package.

    As for the prison closures, I’ll concede this point: when we told rural Illinoisans not to worry about job losses due to their crappy schools, lack of internet, bumpy roads, increases in agricultural productivity, and rising foreign competition all those years ago…”WE’LL JUST BUILD YOU A PRISON!”…we were basically masking the pain by giving them huge doses of very expensive morphine. So yes, when the morphine goes away, the pain will come back, but that’s not to say we caused it.

    And that’s not to say that we shouldn’t try to mitigate the pain. Frankly, I think the AFSCME workers will be fine. Its the fat cats with the prison service contracts who will suffer the most. And they guys with the sweet hotels that folks are forced to book when they have to drive 300 miles to see their dad on visiting day.

    As for AFSCME, they’ve been running interference for everybody else. Workers can be retrained, relocated, get severance packages…most would probably be infinitely happier working as parole officers or some other job.

    The bottom line is, DoC spending has quintupled while the crime rate hasn’t moved an inch.

    That’s VERY expensive painkiller indeed.

  18. - steve schnorf - Tuesday, Jan 31, 12 @ 12:02 am:

    Dog, I’m sure eliminating the sales tax exemption for food and pharmaceuticals isn’t going to cause the Pritzkers much pain, but frankly I’m not worried about them. The sales tax is very regressive, and as you know the lower income groups are much more heavily taxed as a percent of income than the more affluent here in Illinois, and this would exacerbate that, since food and drugs are not usually discretionary expenditures. I would much rather broaden the sales tax base to include services. But, as you said, reasonable people can disagree on what constitutes pain for whom.

    I won’t bother to defend the Corrections workers from your lack of concern. Their unions represent them pretty well. But, in most Illinois prison towns, laid off Correction Officers will never work again at anything close to the wages and benefits they now earn, just as the coal miners don’t and the auto workers don’t. Maybe that’s just the fate that has to befall them, but I am not callous enough to believe it will not be painful.

    As I have said, not “if”, but in what way to whom.

  19. - Rosario - Thursday, Feb 9, 12 @ 8:15 am:

    i am new to this filed so give me some idea about the ELSS mautul funds. i am studing MBA now.with thanks

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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