The state budget passed by the Illinois General Assembly cuts many services for low-income children. For example, cuts in early childhood education could keep thousands of kids from getting a pre-kindergarten education.
Gov. Pat Quinn has yet to sign these cuts into law. The only budget legislation the governor has signed so far is a package of Medicaid bills that cuts the health care program and raises the cigarette tax. This gives social service providers hope that cuts will be averted, but also makes it confusing what money they will have to work with.
In a conference call today, the Chicago research and advocacy group Voices for Illinois Children pointed out that there is a loss in general state aid to local school districts that we reported on yesterday, and also the budget slices $25 million from the early childhood education budget.
The cut follows an $80 million loss in early childhood education money from the past three state budgets. Those cuts translated to about 17,000 children losing access to a state-funded preschool education.
Quinn opposes the education cuts, and Kelly Tablot, director of youth development at Voices for Illinois Children, raised the possibility that the Illinois General Assembly may work out a deal to restore some of this funding, especially since the Illinois Senate identified new revenue sources by passing a tax on satellite TV providers and closing a tax loophole on offshore oil profits.
So there is “uncertainty and a lack of stability” in the final budget outcome, according to Talbot.
“It is difficult to envision a situation in which a lot of these issues can be settled,” Talbot said, before the fiscal year begins July 1. Indeed, any chance of a supplemental bill would probably not come until a fall veto session in October, though Quinn may convene the General Assembly this summer to hash out changes in the public employee pension program.
The new budget also includes a 13 percent cut in state funding to the Department of Children and Family Services, expected to result in the layoffs of 375 agency workers from its current 2,900 workforce. Some of these are employees who directly work with children in situations of abuse and neglect.
Quinn indicated that he is “deeply concerned” with the cuts.
Two key social service areas will get more money in the new fiscal year. One is homeless services which, as PI looked at, will get money from a state affordable housing trust fund.
The other is money for the developmentally disabled. The state wants to make sure it has enough money available to help developmentally disabled patients transfer to community care, in the event that the state shuts down two developmentally disabled centers in Jacksonville and Centralia as scheduled.