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More Democratic budgetary landmines are detonating

Monday, Feb 9, 2015 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Oy

Illinois rehabilitation facilities could be short $110 million for two programs, one for mental health services and another for adults with developmental disabilities.

Greg Shaver, executive director of Kaskaskia Workshop in Centralia, which helps adults with disabilities, said payments are starting to slow.

“The current problem is about to unveil itself,” Shaver said. “We’re beginning to see that they were paying at a very timely manner and had most (payments) current until about election time.” […]

“Because of the ongoing issue over the last couple of years, (banks) are reluctant to issue any kind of credit, or they have tightened the guidelines because they have increased concerns that the state won’t pay them back,” [Janet Stover, president of the Illinois Association of Rehabilitation Facilities] said. “They are very careful.”

* And

Illinois will run out of money to pay the state’s court reporters within weeks, but Gov. Bruce Rauner is working with lawmakers to find a “responsible solution to the problem,” his spokeswoman said.

Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said the state program that pays for court reporters faces a $14.3 million budget shortfall for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, and that the program is on pace to run out of money at the end of March.


“The financial challenges facing the court reporters is just one more stress point pushing us all to look at a solution that addresses this year’s shortfall,” Cullerton spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon said. “We look forward to working with the governor as he outlines solutions to address the challenges for this year and the next.”

In the meantime, local court leaders have to try to manage the problem. Court reporters are present for many proceedings, taking down a record of what’s said. The role is critical for the justice system, the judges say.

DuPage County, Creswell said, can get by with electronic recordings in some cases. But those recorders still have to be operated by court reporters, who make important notations as the tapes roll. […]

In a Jan. 20 letter that was obtained by the Daily Herald, Tammy Bumgarner, director of Court Reporting Services for the state, told her employees lobbyists are optimistic about a fix, but warned “we must remain vigilant if it does not pass quickly or without issues.”

Without a fix, Creswell said, the state’s more than 20 chief judges soon will have to decide how to stretch out the remaining money to keep as much of the court system operating as possible.


  1. - Not Rich - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 10:07 am:

    The Governor did tell us during the campaign that he could manage the State very well without keeping the Quinn income tax in place. Like President Cullerton, I am anxiously awaiting his guidance and plan..

  2. - Cassandra - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 10:08 am:

    According to a legislator/guest on a recent Chicago Tonight broadcast, there is a billion dollars in one of the special funds–to fix potholes. And that’s only one fund. I’m not suggesting that we stop fixing potholes, but that’s a lot of pothole money. Seems like there is a solution here, at least to get us through to the end of the fiscal.

  3. - PMcP - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 10:12 am:

    The problem with taking money from a special fund is that you have to either do it as a ‘loan’ or get legislative approval to re-apportion the funds.

    Doesn’t sound like a solution to me.

  4. - SAP - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 10:14 am:

    I wonder how many entities that rely on State funding tried to reduce costs and stretch their budgets before the tax decrease took effect. I realize that many of them already operate on a shoestring and the example from State agencies was to spend it like you got it, but income tax revenues decreasing was not exactly a surprise.

  5. - Cassandra - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 10:14 am:

    The legislators are going to prioritize potholes over kids and those with special needs?

    Then they deserve a very long, tortuous and politically damaging session of budgeteering.

  6. - downstate commissioner - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 10:15 am:

    Cassandra- legislators, from township boards to county boards to state whatever, always like to look at Road funds with big balances for solutions to other problems- my guess is that most of that “pothole” money is already spent, waiting on paperwork to be finished, and a lot of it may be matching grants from federal funds…and a billion dollars, as much as sounds like, really doesn’t go that far on major interstate projects…

  7. - PMcP - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 10:17 am:

    It’s not a prioritizing thing, it’s a legal thing. Taking money to solve one problem creates another; everyone needs to just be adults about it and realize that raising the income taxes increases revenue and we can operate in a healthier environment if we do.

    I don’t see why that option is not even being discussed because it’s the giant elephant in the room that solves the problem.

  8. - downstate commissioner - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 10:19 am:

    Cassandra, I agree with you on the priorities, even though I am a road person, but legal contractual funding realities are a fact. The Democrats screwed up last year; they can’t pass it all on to Rauner.

  9. - Wordslinger - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 10:20 am:

    More to come, I’m sure. Makes it easier to cut, which is what 50.27 percent voted for. It’s a spending problem, not a revenue problem.

  10. - Stones - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 10:22 am:

    Court Reporters are absolutely critical to the court system. Live Reporters are used in Felony and Juvenile cases and they operate the electronic recording equipment in all other types of cases. Transcripts are produced from these electronic recordings by a Court Reporter if ordered by a party. The simple fact is without Court Reporters the Courts are handcuffed.

  11. - Cassandra - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 10:26 am:

    Well, do we have a budget crisis or not. Sure, if we are going to have these “special” funds (a questionable concept) we shouldn’t raid them. But we are being told that the state is in dire straits, the middle class tax base is in dire straits because of income stagnation (according to even President Obama) and unusual times call for unusual measures. If Rauner fixes the budget, future raids may not be needed.

  12. - walker - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 10:31 am:

    We’re just entering the minefield.

    MJM and Cullerton will be tossing one lifeline after another to the Governor, which would support needed cash flow for the next five months. Rauner will have to decide which ones are the least ideologically or politically toxic. These lifelines, including funds transfers and debt, are how the budget was technically “balanced” in the first place.

    The really astute managers of the big social service agencies (a few I know) saw this coming and managed appropriately. Not to say this problem is not disgraceful.

  13. - Roamin' Numeral - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 10:32 am:

    I have an idea. Let’s increase the income tax rate from 3.75% to 5.00%. Starting, like, tomorrow. Or soon. Very, very soon.

  14. - Mama - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 10:37 am:

    IL is a big state with lots of potholes. Be careful what you wish for folks. Remember, you have to pay back the special funds you raid.

  15. - Responsa - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 10:38 am:

    Rehab is never pleasant and often painful, but it has to start sometime, somewhere. And getting the patient’s attention that a drastic change is required and in for treatment often requires intervention to make it happen. Ignoring the problem just makes it worse and more intractable and more dangerous over time.

    Voters’ election of Rauner signified that they expect an intervention –not an overnight miracle.

  16. - in the know - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 10:43 am:

    courts can do without court reporters (but shouldn’t). the judges could simply do “bystanders reports” summarizing the events in the courtroom. efficient, no. legally permissible, yes. chances of getting judges to do more work, zero. expect a mandamus order from a judge compelling the payment of court reports if no fix is forthcoming.

  17. - A guy - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 10:46 am:

    The metaphor of potholes is a good one. There’s potholes in every budget.

  18. - AC - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 10:51 am:

    I’d like to live in a parallel world, where the 3 political leaders cared more about the state than the politics. In such a place, the flat income tax would be increased to 5%, less expensive than several surrounding states, and with responsible spending sufficient to fund operations. With an improving economy, declining pension ramp, and a move toward taxing more services, reduce the income tax gradually to around 4.25% over 10 years. The problem is, all that would require putting the state ahead of politics.

  19. - DuPage - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 10:58 am:

    Defer maintenance on roads, yeah, that will work fine, just like deferring maintenance on the governor’s official residence. We saved a lot of money on that roof!

  20. - exbricklayer - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 11:00 am:

    ===IL is a big state with lots of potholes. Be careful what you wish for folks. Remember, you have to pay back the special funds you raid.===

    Unlike the matching state funds to my pension.

  21. - Neglected stepchild - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 11:07 am:

    It’s all the Democrats’ fault. Their budget, their blame. Let the chips fall where they may, not a penny more for this abomination we call a state government.

  22. - Modest Proposal - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 11:13 am:

    Every aspect of the current judicial system takes up so much money. How would decriminalization of petty drug offenses effect the amount of court reporters on payroll?

  23. - SkeptiCal - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 11:16 am:

    ” Cullerton spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon said. “We look forward to working with the governor as he outlines solutions to address the challenges for this year and the next.”

    No one in the G.A. escapes responsibility. This is an uncalled for statement by the President’s PR person that implies that it is up to the Gov to suggest a solution to the budget that the G.A. has to know would not make it through the year.

  24. - SkeptiCal - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 11:18 am:

    Also, the entire budget for the judicial branch of government makes up less than 2% of the entire budget. So the G.A. should step up to the plate and offer a solution here.

  25. - Commander Norton - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 11:27 am:

    Yes, technically it’s a “Democratic budget.” But if the Republicans had put a few votes on extending last year’s tax rates, it wouldn’t look like this today. I know, I know; there was no possibility of that happening. But if they were being honest, the GOP would be extolling what they believe are the virtues of lower taxes and less government instead of wringing their hands, crying crocodile tears over all the government functions that the “Democratic budget” isn’t funding.

  26. - Arizona Bob - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 11:29 am:

    Kill a couple unnecessary “pork” capitol projects and the money will be there, at least for that part funded or transferred from GRF.

    For want of a nail the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe the horse was lost, for want of a horse the king was lost, for loss of the king the battle was lost….

    Small things unattended to often have much wider implications..

  27. - Norseman - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 11:45 am:

    === Kill a couple unnecessary “pork” capitol projects ===

    Nice talking point Bob, but it doesn’t work that way. Two different pots of money that can’t be switched.

  28. - Rich Miller - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 11:46 am:

    ===Yes, technically it’s a “Democratic budget.”===

    It is, in fact, a Democratic budget.

  29. - JS Mill - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 12:02 pm:

    I would be shocked, just shocked if the Governor allowed fund sweeps and other budgetary tricks to cover the budget holes. If memory serves me correctly he said that practice was corrupt.

  30. - Skirmisher - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 12:04 pm:

    I was amused last week to see Madigan state with straight face that was anxious to see how the governor was going to deal with the budget shortfall in the current fiscal year. My thought was that the governor should just shrug his shoulders and ask Madigan and Cullerton how they intended to fix it? They orchestrated this mess, with some ultimate collusion from Pat Quinn.

  31. - Rich Miller - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 12:08 pm:

    ===My thought was that the governor should just shrug his shoulders and ask Madigan and Cullerton how they intended to fix it?===

    The big chair comes with big responsibilities. You’ve been in the minority too long. Time to step up.

  32. - Mama - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 12:11 pm:

    According to Rauner’s speech, the Dems are going to have to live with their budget.

  33. - Arizona Bob - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 12:21 pm:

    @Norse man

    === Kill a couple unnecessary “pork” capitol projects ===

    =Nice talking point Bob, but it doesn’t work that way. Two different pots of money that can’t be switched.=

    I guess you didn’t read the rest, Norse, I said funds from the “GRF” that would be used for that. Are you saying no funds are reallocated from one of the “sweeps” to take care of someone in the GA who wants a new unneeded community center, fire house of police station? I’m not talking roads here, Norseman. I understand that this kind of shifting is not at all unusual. Of course, if you don’t actually sell all of those $33 billion in capital “pork” bonds Quinn had approved, the interest alone could take care of some shortfalls like this.

  34. - West Side the Best Side - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 12:35 pm:

    in the know - Don’t think a bystander’s report would work out too well on a appeal in a murder case. And why the gratitous blast at judges for not wanting to be the one taking down the verbatim report of the proceedings? It takes special skill and long training to be a court reporter.

  35. - Past the Rule of 85 - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 12:58 pm:

    Nobody likes to pay taxes, but some of us realize that if we want paved roads, clear of snow, water we can drink, courts to be open and functioning, bridges that don’t collapse, etc. a certain level of taxes are required. Bringing back the 5% rate would not destroy Illinois. The top tax rate in Iowa is almost 9%, in Missouri it’s 6%. Look at Rauner’s two hero states. Indiana has a state rate of 3.4% but also has local income taxes. Wisconsin has a top rate of 7.6%. When I read the article this morning I thought we are about to find out what happens when the only good tax is no tax thinking is allowed to proceed.

  36. - Precinct Captain - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 1:14 pm:

    In a way, it’s kind of nice that the budget is exploding right now. It allows everyone to see the consequences of the types and amount of cuts. Spread out over a whole year, these consequences may have gone largely unnoticed.

  37. - Fight Fair - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 2:33 pm:

    Let’s all collegially agree that there’s a special place in hell for commenters who cherry-pick one tax rather than using the Tax Foundation composite rankings, which look at //all// of each state’s tax rates. The cherry-picking approach is for propagandists.

    Example: Illinois is a low income tax, high property tax state. But its total tax burden is high.
    Want to generalize from the full rankings? Total tax burdens in Iowa, Missouri and Indiana are lower than Illinois’, while Wisconsin’s is higher. Wisconsin lawmakers intend to improve their state’s ranking.

  38. - Wordslinger - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 3:40 pm:

    –Wisconsin lawmakers intend to improve their states ranking–

    Do they? Whats the holdup? Dreamy Gov. Walker and a lapdog GOP legislature for four years and they just haven’t gotten around to it?

    Fact is, if you make more than $21K in Wisconsin, your income tax rate starts at 6.27 percent.

    Love that money.

  39. - anon - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 5:03 pm:

    Kind of ironic that the leading Supreme Court case on this came out of Illinois. Griffin v. Illinois, 1956(requiring a transcript for indigents). As with the pension theft, same old, same old, been there, done that.

  40. - Past the Rule of 85 - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 5:16 pm:

    Fight Fair @ 2:33
    === a special place in hell for cherry picking one tax===

    I didn’t cherry pick a tax to make a point. I picked a state tax that can be used to fund state obligations. I’ve seen more cherry picking in the past two weeks than the past year. Like comparing salaries of barbers and switchboard operators to claim state workers are overpaid.

  41. - Jasper - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 5:56 pm:

    Modest Proposal….

    No impact at all…many of those cases are misdemeanors and aren’t reported unless requested by the defense attorney (if there is one). 99+ % of those cases plead out. The electronic recording systems are wonderful innovations but a fair number of cases require a reporter and a contemporaneous recording is extremely useful even in those cases.

  42. - Ripped off - Monday, Feb 9, 15 @ 10:06 pm:

    Hey! There are a number of us charged with serious felonies who have been already ripped off by the criminal justice system paying for bonds and legal fees. I want to know what the State pays a court reporter for a transcript because we’re stuck paying them $900 bucks for a one-day transcript! I want the courts to go electronic. The costs would be a heck of a lot cheaper if courts used Dragon voice-recognition software transcribed via computer and all a reporter had to do was spell-check it. The technology is there; using human transcription is antiquated and too costly now.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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