* I’ve been warning subscribers about this development for almost two weeks. The Black Caucus made it official yesterday via press conference…
Most people in Springfield have been planning for next year’s budget with the idea that there would be a $2.7-billion cut in Medicaid, the state’s program of health care for the poor.
That includes the budget Senate Democrats voted for. […]
Shortly before the Senate vote, black legislators came out as a united front, protesting the Medicaid reductions.
Rep. Mary Flowers, a Democrat from Chicago, says cutting benefits like prescription drugs is a lose-lose proposition. […]
With just a week left in the legislative session, the fight over Medicaid seems to be holding up a broader budget agreement.
There are more problems with Medicaid than this, but without Black Caucus votes, the benefit/eligibility/provider cut package can’t pass unless Republicans also support the plan. Subscribers know more about that aspect.
* Meanwhile, the Senate Democrats pushed through their own budget yesterday…
emocrats rammed a budget plan through the Illinois Senate Wednesday, but the state’s financial blueprint for the coming fiscal year is far from being complete.
With the House still working to craft a bipartisan spending plan, action in the Senate was viewed as more symbolic than a finished product.
Republicans in Senate called the $33.7 billion proposal budgetary “sleight of hand” and a “sham” and wondered why Democrats weren’t waiting until there was more agreement with the House and Gov. Pat Quinn.
* Here’s some good reporting on what went down during debate…
“I don’t think that we want to be in a position of waiting for the House to pass a budget. We want to get the process rolling. We don’t know whether we will get to an agreement [on Medicaid] yet or not, yet. So we are going to move a budget to the House and continue negotiations,” said Sen. Heather Steans, who sponsored two of the three budget bills that passed tonight.” […]
“So it’s more important to beat the House than it is to pass a sound budget that’s premised on everything that’s necessary to pass a budget, like what’s going to happen with Medicaid, the central issue in the entire budget? We are in such a rush to beat the House that we would rather do it fast … than do it right?” Sen. Matt Murphy, a Palatine Republican, asked during floor debate. Murphy said that the proposal would not put the state on track for financial stability when the recent income tax increase rolls back in 2015.
Democrats argued that Republicans have not presented a plan of their own, and the massive cuts they say they want would never be politically viable on either side of the aisle. “We think we’re doing this right. I could also suggest, if you don’t like this approach, we’d be happy to entertain a bill from you suggesting how we might do the budget,” Steans said. Democrats say that their budget is responsible because doesn’t spend more than the state will take in next fiscal year, and it would address $1.3 billion in overdue bills. The proposal would dip into money that is usually automatically transferred out of the General Revenue Fund and special funds to pay down the bills, and Steans said the money would not be repaid to those funds. […]
The Senate raced to keep up with the House last year and passed a budget that would have spent more than the other chamber’s proposal. In the end, the House won out. However, lawmakers did approve some additional spending later in the fiscal year. (For more on last year’s chamber vs. chamber budget battle, see the Illinois Issues blog.)
Sen. Dale Righter predicted that the history of last year would repeat itself. “It’s … a chamber squabble for you folks. It’s to beat the House of Representatives. And here’s what’s going to happen: You’re going to go through all this turmoil over here and all this grief,” Righter, a Republican from Mattoon, said. “And what’s going to happen is these budget bills are going to zoom over to the House of Representatives, and they will meet exactly the same demise as your budget did last year.”
* This schtick of the Republicans not presenting their own cuts - even via amendments to the Senate Democrats’ budget bills - is really getting old. The Democrats extrapolated overall Republican budget demands (which I told subscribers about several days ago) and came up with some numbers…
Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said the kind of cuts being demanded by Republicans would slash $446 million from education and $350 million from human services.
“It would be impossible to pass a budget with those cuts,” he said.
* But the SGOPs did make one very good point. From a press release…
Buried within a budget plan approved by Illinois Senate Democrats on May 23 was a $1.5 million earmark for a little-known program that is supposed to recruit and train parents and community leaders to become teachers.
The problem is, the program has already received more than $19 million in its first six years and only produced 29 teachers. That’s an average of $662,000 per teacher.
In fact, only 54 individuals have ever graduated from the program, which works out to $356,000 per graduate. Although students who fail to graduate or who do not take teaching jobs are supposed to repay their educational costs, most are “counseled out” of the program, which does not require a repayment.
Digging deeper into the statistics – a total of 615 students have started the program since it’s beginning in fiscal year 2006. That works out to a dismal graduation rate of 8.7%.
Despite the massive failure of the program, the Senate Democrat budget would provide a total of $1.5 million for the program.
Where does the money go? The program hands out grants to 15 consortia around the state. One of the requirements of the program is that each consortia must include at least one “community organization,” one school district, one two- or four-year college, a teachers’ union or a regional office of education.
Before approving the budget, Democrats added back money to keep the Jacksonville Developmental Center open. It was slated to close under an earlier version of the budget.
The spending plan also provides money to cover only about half of state employee health insurance costs next year. That would give Gov. Pat Quinn more leverage in union contract negotiations, Steans said.
* In other news, I received a desperate call today from a woman who’s trying to stop what she says would be devastating cuts to a crucial Medicaid program. Here’s her e-mail…
Dear Rich Miller,
House amendment 4 to SB 2840 includes a section, on p. 81 of the new amendment, that guts the Medically Fragile Technology Dependent Waiver for children. This program provides home nursing for 500 children with ventilators and other medical technology. The result of this amendment would be hundreds of children taken away from their families and hospitalized permanently, at three times the cost of care under the current program.
The new amendment would limit this program to families who earn 500% FPL or less, and imposes exorbitant copays that many families will be unable to pay. It also (p. 70) removes a guarantee in current law that states children with an institutional level of care or higher are eligible for home and community based services.
Here are the most important things to know about this issue:
1) This legislation could lead to hundreds of children being cut out of this program. These children are so medically complex that most of them will end up hospitalized permanently. It only costs $188,210 a year to care for these kids at home, but it costs $660,000 to care for them in the hospital, three times as much.
2) SSA law requires that the state cover costs for these children in a hospital/institution, but does not require them to cover home based services. Therefore, the state will be paying three times as much per child for every child who is cut off the program. Only 23 children would need to be hospitalized to erase all of the proposed savings.
3) Both Equip for Equality (Illinois’ federally-appointed Advocacy and Protection agency) and the Arc of Illinois have stated this legislation is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act as interpreted by the Olmstead Supreme Court decision. Both groups have written letters to the Governor and others expressing this fact. [See http://www.thearcofil.org/arc-fights-changes-to-medically-fragile-technology-dependent-childrens-waiver for the ARC of IL; the Equip for Equality letter is not yet on their website–we have an advance copy if needed.]
4) A family of 3 who earns 500% FPL would have to pay 246% of their income in order to keep their child at home, which is obviously impossible. $188,210 is the average cost of care, and some children have much higher costs. You would have to earn 1500% FPL just to break even after taxes for the average kid, and more than 2500% FPL for a sicker higher-needs child.
We have at least 17 families who are willing to be interviewed and have invited media and legislators into their homes. Our families are desperate–their children are about to be taken away from them because on paper it would save money, when in reality it would actually cost more.
I have attached a background information packet for your reference as well as our most recent press release. Please help us!
The background packet is here.
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