PI Original Adam Doster Thursday July 1st, 2010, 1:43pm

So What Just Happened? (A Budget Cut Primer)

The 2011 fiscal year began this morning and Illinois' spending plan is now technically in place. We offer a basic rundown of what budget items were salvaged and which ones were cut.

The 2011 fiscal year began this morning and Illinois' budget is now technically in place. Before leaving Springfield in May, the General Assembly approved a package of bills to ensure that the government could continue operating. Their spending bill (HB 859) provided each state agency with an appropriation from the General Revenue Fund. These initial outlays, however, paled in comparison to the funding levels agencies received just one year ago; the budgets for the Departments of Human Services, Children and Family Services, and Public Health, for example, all shrunk by over 30 percent compared to FY 2010 totals. To compensate, the legislature also passed SB 3660, which dumped another $3.46 billion into Gov. Pat Quinn's lap and offered him broad emergency powers to dole out those dollars as he saw fit.

In short, the legislature approved $24.9 billion in spending, as compared to $26.3 billion in FY 2010.  But by giving Quinn control of that lump sum appropriation, they basically asked him to make the hard decisions about where to cut.

Earlier this morning,  Quinn signed what's called a "reduction veto" of the legislature's spending plan that will trim an additional $155 million from a variety of administrative line items. He also announced how he would allocate that $3.46 billion tossed onto his desk by lawmakers. Where were the cuts made? Here's a brief rundown of how the major social departments fared, working off our previous budget analysis:

Education: The governor restored $288 million in funding for Illinois State Board of Education expenditures, most of which will protect early education programs. Still, the state is cutting funding for K-12 "mandated categoricals" (such as special education programs) by $240 million and another $100 million from higher education.

Department of Health and Family Services: Like last year, Gov. Quinn used $1 billion from his lump-sum appropriation to cover the state's contribution to its employee group health insurance fund. The department's broader budget was kept intact.

Department of Human Services: Over $310 million will be sliced from DHS, which will likely starve some non-Medicaid funded community mental health and disability services.  According to the Department of Mental Health, 70,000 consumers are now in danger of losing access to "basic mental health care including medications, psychiatry visits, and case management." Quinn devoted approximately $1.2 billion of his lump-sum to buoy the department, however. Mental health residential programs, for example, will receive $55 million more than the General Assembly initially offered.

Department of Children and Family Services: Because of a federal consent decree mandating that Illinois maintain an adequate level of child protection and foster care services, Gov. Quinn used a portion of his lump sum appropriation to restore a $280 million cut to the DCFS budget. In total, it will operate with $6 million less than last year.

Department of Aging: Gov. Quinn will also provide $325 million for the Community Care program, which is protected by a legal consent decree.

The remaining cuts come from several smaller agencies and other belt-tightening initiatives like employee furloughs. And while the governor hinted that the state would not balk on this year's pension contribution, he offered no specifics about where the $3.5 billion needed would come from.

To summarize: This budget further "decimates" the human services infrastructure in this state, does little to resolve the multi-billion backlog of overdue bills, neglects to meet the state's annual pension obligation, and continues to erode our education system.

Welcome to Illinois.


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