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The next target

Monday, Apr 27, 2015

* From the twitters…

When the governor bemoans the state’s “vast bureaucracy,” he’s not just talking about unionized state workers. He’s also talking about Illinois’ huge network of not-for-profit human service providers.

* From a Tribune story on the latest round of budget cuts

At the Department of Human Services, for example, most programs will continue to provide services because money can be moved around to cover the cuts. But for seven programs within the department, such maneuvers aren’t possible and spending on services will be slashed by $1.1 million, department spokeswoman Veronica Vera said. Among those is a domestic violence shelter program that will lose $419,300 and a program for expectant parents that will lose $225,900. […]

Jeri Linas, the executive director of Chicago’s Teen Living Programs, said she is expecting her organization to face cuts but hasn’t yet learned just how much.

With locations in Bronzeville and Washington Park, Teen Living provides housing and support services for homeless youths in Chicago. The agency gets about $275,000 from the state, some of which pays for staff members who help young at-risk clients find jobs, enroll in school and get subsidized housing. […]

“The double whammy is, some of us who have contracts utilize funding from the state as a match for federal funding,” Linas said. “So when you cut a program’s budget … the risk of an agency closing its doors is very real.”

* There’s no question that Illinois needs much better oversight of these not-for-profits. There’s also no question that the groups can provide services much more cheaply than the state - they raise a significant amount of money on their own and they don’t employ higher-priced state workers. And there’s no question that most of those groups have political sponsors.

So, it’s a delicate balancing act. Some groups need to be weeded out. Others may no longer be providing a necessary service. Slashing funding for autism programs was stupid on all counts. Initially, that showed Rauner was willing to take on this “vast bureaucracy” no matter what the political price. He’s since been forced to backtrack.

This can’t be done with an axe, no matter how much some folks are eager for that to happen.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - MrJM - Monday, Apr 27, 15 @ 11:21 am:

    “Many thousands are in want of common necessaries — hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”
    “Are there no prisons?”
    “Plenty of prisons…”
    “And the workhouses.” demanded Scrooge. “Are they still in operation?”
    “Both very busy, sir…”
    “Those who are badly off must go there.”
    “Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”
    “If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

    – MrJM

  2. - siriusly - Monday, Apr 27, 15 @ 11:21 am:

    Just because a group has a political sponsor does not mean they are not doing a good job or that they should be weeded out. Sometimes the politicians gravitate to the best groups because they do great work.

    Sure there are some examples of politically connected groups getting grants they may not deserve. But that is not the truth for most human service orgs.

  3. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Apr 27, 15 @ 11:22 am:

    When Kristina Rasmussen suggest “Ounce” shoukd be first, then she’ll have my attention.

    Maybe Rasmussen and @statehousechick can get together and Rasmussen can tell us all that needs to be cut, and @statehousechick will tell us Rauner isn’t cutting anything, it’s the Speaker and President!

  4. - Aldyth - Monday, Apr 27, 15 @ 11:24 am:

    I certainly got into human services because I heard there was a fortune to be made. After 35 years, I’m still waiting.

  5. - Upon Further Review - Monday, Apr 27, 15 @ 11:28 am:

    I do not want to see those in need suffer, but there are too many bogus charities and human services providers siphoning from the public trough. People have been jailed for these scams.

  6. - Adam Smith - Monday, Apr 27, 15 @ 11:30 am:

    The need for balance and sensitivity on the part of the administration is obvious.

    But this raises an important point. As noted, many of these programs have political sponsors and have become a new avenue to building patronage and political strength. If you can bring money into your district for a social service program and influence how that program is run, the priority shifts from delivering services to pleasing the political sponsor.

    As Rich rightly points out, there needs to be much more accountability on the program side and, like it or not, many of the smaller service agencies lack the necessary infrastructure to maintain standards.

    We will probably see many small agencies fail to survive these cuts, and that will have negative consequences. But in the long-term, there is a chance to make the delivery of services more effective, transparent and accountable.

    And, once more, let’s all remember how we got to this point…Deliberate fiscal irresponsibility on the part of politicians who knowingly set up those most in need to suffer the consequences of their callous actions.

  7. - walker - Monday, Apr 27, 15 @ 11:34 am:

    Smart comments by Rich. We need to be very careful in judging government support for this whole not-for-profit service structure.

    Many of these programs were initially encouraged by Conservatives in government. They were labeled “outsourcing,” as part of fiscal reform. One of the reasons that Illinois has among the fewest government employees per capita, is that we are one of the most “outsourced” state governments.

    When well-run, they can deliver more and better services to the public for less taxpayer money. Others have been wasteful or redundant. Broad strokes of the axe can cost us more, not less.

  8. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Apr 27, 15 @ 11:38 am:

    - walker -

    Nice add-on to Rich’s comments. Thanks for making me think here and often.

  9. - Norseman - Monday, Apr 27, 15 @ 11:39 am:

    If the Turnaround Superstaffers dedicated themselves to analyzing issues like this instead of busying themselves on passing useless resolutions, then we might make some progress on real solutions.

  10. - Come on man! - Monday, Apr 27, 15 @ 11:40 am:

    Ditto, MrJM

  11. - Chicago Hack - Monday, Apr 27, 15 @ 11:41 am:

    The issue isn’t that money is being spent on programs, it’s that there’s no concrete method of measuring success for these programs. That’s why the ongoing work of the Budgeting for Results Commission is so important. They’re working to transform how programs are deemed successful, beyond just counting the number of people served or trainings held. If the Governor was truly interested in spending money wisely, he’d talk more about the work of the Commission and talk less about “waste” and “special interests”.

  12. - DuPage - Monday, Apr 27, 15 @ 11:48 am:

    Leveraging money supposedly is one of Rauner’s areas of expertise. By cutting state grants that were getting matching federal funds, he is leveraging in reverse.

  13. - Wordslinger - Monday, Apr 27, 15 @ 11:51 am:

    Waiting patiently for Kristina’s next tweet on the decline in the state payroll over the past 25 years.

    Seriously, twitter has its uses, but it’s just goofy to think that a bunch of drive-by tweets advances the discussion on anything.

  14. - steve schnorf - Monday, Apr 27, 15 @ 12:03 pm:

    Rich, I think the prevalence of “political sponsors” among non-profits that provide human services thru grants or contracts from the state varies greatly, mostly by geography. My experience is that it is very rare in the rural areas of the state and much more frequent in the highly urbanized areas. In the more rural areas of the state legislators certainly know their non-profits and are kept informed by the non-profit of any pending issues etc, but it isn’t the same relationship as sometimes exists in urban areas. And, patronage, other than nepotism, is pretty rare in the rural non-profits.

  15. - Norseman - Monday, Apr 27, 15 @ 12:11 pm:

    === That’s why the ongoing work of the Budgeting for Results Commission is so important. ===

    It would be great if this effort actually works. I’m dubious about any real results coming out of the commissions efforts. This initiative will only turn out some nice whitepapers and deal with some low-hanging fruit. No major funding decisions will be based on performance measures. My basis for saying this is that I’ve experienced similar efforts throughout my tenure with the state. They generate papers and expenditures on training but little more.

    I would love to be wrong about the current effort. Please prove me wrong.

  16. - Honeybear - Monday, Apr 27, 15 @ 12:17 pm:

    Norseman- Oh but they have been busy beavers AND NOT ON “USELESS RESOLUTION”. Take a gander at SB1660. This little beauty allows the infamous EDGE tax credits to be sold, assigned, or transferred! Thus Illinois gives an EDGE tax credit to company A to expand in Illinois. Now they can sell that credit to another company, or transfer/assign it to another division in the company. Nice little tax credit laundering scheme don’t you think. So what we originally gave the credit for will soon be rendered possibly null and void. So rounding back to the topic at hand. We have money to dole out to corporations to get out of paying taxes thus depriving our state of income to fulfil our desparate social needs but we don’t have money to apply directly to addressing the social needs. Nice one conservatives, a twofer! Currently only about a third of the EDGE tax credits we award are redeemed. Thus the 100million that just got awarded will yield on average 33mil in actual taxes not being paid into state coffers from the awarding of the credit. Once they gain the ability to sell, assign or transfer the the credit, WATCH OUT! We’ll lose the whole 100 million from coming in AND most likely the reason it was rewarded in the first place, new JOBS.

  17. - Midwest Mom - Monday, Apr 27, 15 @ 12:23 pm:

    Saturday evening I watched a local fraternal organization give a large donation to a non-profit organization that serves children who’ve been victims of abuse. It covers three different counties. The service provided is mandated yet relatively unfunded by the state and the organization is now down from five to two employees. How is that supposed to work?

    I agree with steve schnorf - Monday, Apr 27, 15 @ 12:03 pm. Political sponsorship, agendas, and patronage are hard to come by out in our rural areas. We take care of our own out here but it’s getting harder to be benevolent in the current economic environment.

  18. - Norseman - Monday, Apr 27, 15 @ 12:37 pm:

    === Norseman- Oh but they have been busy beavers AND NOT ON “USELESS RESOLUTION”. Take a gander at SB1660. ===

    So this is your boss’ initiative? I’m surprised because all we’ve heard is that the elusive Turnaround agenda has been trapped in some magic legislative Neverland. Now tell me Honeybear how many staffers worked on that bill and how many staffers have been working on passing the resolution. If you would be honest, I suspect the latter would be a greater number.

  19. - Anonin' - Monday, Apr 27, 15 @ 12:44 pm:

    This could tough for BVR and the IPIette to grasp but IL has not done direct service for decades…except prisons and highways. What most agencies do is hand out cash to fund programs that legislators approve and governors approve year after year…wanna stop repeal some laws. In meantime get ready for the P3 to start handin’ out more $$$.

  20. - Chicago Hack - Monday, Apr 27, 15 @ 12:45 pm:

    Norseman, I can only say having worked on the funded side, Budgeting for Results is a phrase that resonates. The groups I’ve met with and understand that past models of reporting and funding aren’t going to cut it. Whether the Commission ends up driving real change or is just a paper factory, I guess we’ll see.

  21. - sal-says - Monday, Apr 27, 15 @ 12:49 pm:

    Very reasonable to review/audit the purpose & effectiveness of these programs and agencies.

    But the approach here, as has become typical of this administration is: ‘Ready; Fire; Aim.’

    Analyze; then decide; but not with these ‘deciders’. Cut and wait & see. Dreadful.

  22. - Norseman - Monday, Apr 27, 15 @ 12:51 pm:

    Chicago Hack, Budgeting for Results resonated when I was working on implementing it back in the early days of the Ryan administration. I’m with you on the concept. It just requires leadership. Leadership I’m not seeing among today’s elected officials.

  23. - Norseman - Monday, Apr 27, 15 @ 12:53 pm:

    Honeybear, maybe Rauner should toot his horn about SB1660.

    (Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Just saw the tweet about Wiki.)

  24. - Give Me A Break - Monday, Apr 27, 15 @ 12:56 pm:

    If the Non For Profits are forced out due to budget cuts I hope the GA and Gov are well prepared to either reopen closed state operated facilities or build new ones, but make no mistake about it, Illinois will pay for services either by design or court order, but it will pay for those services.

  25. - Left Leaner - Monday, Apr 27, 15 @ 1:00 pm:

    Good points about the value of nonprofits and ‘outsourcing’ have been made here.

    A very smart thing Rauner could do is invest in better oversight of the nonprofits by the agencies providing them grants. Most people administering, monitoring and auditing contracts/grants have never received proper training for contract monitoring and/or are overwhelmed because of all of the other job duties they’re given, many not related to contract monitoring. And lots of people with the skills are retiring or are soon to retire. It is necessary to invest in accountability in order to get accountability, which can ultimately lead to more effective services provided for less $$.

  26. - Honeybear - Monday, Apr 27, 15 @ 1:24 pm:

    Norseman, I have no idea about the staffers. I only came across this trying to find another bill. I was so stunned by it and it’s implications that I had to post it. I don’t work for DCEO but I’ve been watching the “business money” stuff like a hawk because I suspected that that was where Rauner would make his moves. And indeed, this seems to be where he is making his plays. I agree there needs to be more oversight on the nonprofit service providers but I HATE that they are letting pinching off the infusion of revenue through corporate taxes while actively killing any social service.

  27. - Anonymous - Monday, Apr 27, 15 @ 1:26 pm:

    it is somewhat ironic that the big push under the Thompson administration and later GOP Governors was the push away from state employees TOWARDS not for profits. We’ve now decided that privatization of social services is too expensive and we need the annihilation of social services. Let the churches and philanthropists handle it without taxpayer money I guess. Rauner’s $100k is not sufficient in and of itself to provide disaster relief to a tornado ravaged town, and privately funded NFP’s can’t handle disabled, addicted, orphaned, homeless or criminally involved kids (or adults)on their own either.

  28. - Anyone Remember - Monday, Apr 27, 15 @ 2:41 pm:

    In terms of “oversight” I would again recommend to the readers Barbara Shaw’s NRI testimony, particularly pages 228-233 in this link,%202014%20Legislative%20Audit%20Commission%20Meeting%20Transcript.pdf

  29. - Earnest - Monday, Apr 27, 15 @ 2:44 pm:

    Ironically there is a workgroup in DHS trying to reduce duplicative monitoring of community agencies serving adults with developmental disabilities. Some programs are monitored very closely, mainly those funded through Medicaid or the Medicaid Waiver. There is no state funding in the form of grants left at most community agencies. Thank you to Schnorf for the comment about rural agencies.

  30. - Juvenal - Monday, Apr 27, 15 @ 3:15 pm:

    According to Edelman’s Trust Barometer, American opinion leaders (college educated, upper quartile of income) are much more likely to trust nonprofits (65%) than the media (43%), government (41%), or even business (60%).

    It is worth noting however that trust for government shifts dramatically when you move from the federal government to local government.

    So, I wish those who would like to paint a bull’s eye on the nonprofit sector the best of luck, but my bet is that it will blow up in your face.

  31. - dr. reason a. goodwin - Monday, Apr 27, 15 @ 10:42 pm:

    I think this is one of the most important topics of the current state budget debate. There are many crucial social service programs. But there are also others that seem to be invented mostly to expand fiefdoms create new “executive director” jobs. Let’s go back 20 years and examine all these programs invented since then. Keep the good ones but shed the social pork.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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