Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Cutting the meals for the disabled

Cutting the meals for the disabled(,100809kadner.article)
October 8, 2009
So you want government to cut the fat, tighten its belt and fire all those do-nothing patronage employees.
You want the government to spend tax dollars as you would.
Well, here's what happens when the cuts begin.
Illinois, facing a multibillion-dollar budget deficit, is going to cap and cut services provided to disabled people by state-funded personal assistants, who make make about $10 an hour. They help disabled people go to the bathroom, wash their clothes, make their meals, shower, get dressed and make visits to the doctor's office.
From now on, they will be allowed to provide meal preparation only 30 hours a month because, according to the Illinois Department of Human Services, most people don't eat three prepared meals each day.
That's a lifestyle choice, the state claims. And the state is no longer going to accommodate the high-flying lifestyles of disabled people who want three home-cooked meals a day.
"Buying a microwave may reduce need for assist with meal preparation," contends a Power Point presentation prepared by the state for home-service providers.
And if someone in a wheelchair can't reach a microwave, well, maybe they can use a grabber.
That's the solution suggested by the state for doing laundry.
"Buying a grabber may reduce need for assist with laundry," government officials contend.
Assistance with money management matters will be capped at 3 hours a month, laundry at 12 hours a month, housework will be limited to 17 hours a month and assistance outside the home (for shopping, etc.) will be capped at 18 hours per month.
Is this what you had in mind when you said the state should tighten its belt?
On Wednesday, as a training seminar for employees of the Illinois Department of Human Services was taking place inside a Holiday Inn near Midway Airport, disabled people in wheelchairs protested outside.
Susan Aarup, 40, who lives near Midway Airport, told me what the cuts and caps will mean to her.
"It means when I have to go to the bathroom, I won't be able to," said Aarup, who was born with cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair.
That's not just an inconvenience, it could be a health hazard.
Aarup and others in the home-services programs will be allowed to appeal the caps based on personal need.
Right now, she said, personal assistants spend about nine hours a day with her. She lives alone.
"What the state is going to eventually do is force many of us into nursing homes," Aarup said, voicing a concern shared by many of the protesters. "That means we will no longer be productive taxpaying citizens, but it also means that the people of this state will be paying 20 times more to keep us in nursing homes. It doesn't make sense."
Michael Ervin, another protester in a wheelchair, noted that while the state will hear appeals for special cases, many of those individuals don't have the means to fight for their rights.
"There are people with cognitive disorders or speech disorders, who just can't verbalize their needs," Ervin said. "'There are other members of our community who just don't have the energy or the personality to fight against the bureaucracy. And why should we always have to fight for every right to live like a human being? It's not right."
The state provides personal assistants to about 35,000 people statewide, so I wondered just how much money Illinois would save by capping the hours of personal assistants.
I called two different media relations people paid by the state but couldn't get an answer to that question. I was told the state reviewed the services and decided some were excessive and unnecessary.
Maybe this is what you expected if you're a resident who opposed a state income tax hike.
Maybe that's what you wanted when you asked Gov. Pat Quinn to cut the waste in the state budget.
But I don't think the majority of Illinois residents wanted cuts imposed on the people who help others get in and out of bed.
I think they thought the fat cats, the do-nothing nephews of politicians, the management types with bloated salaries, would get the heave-ho.
Instead, college students are losing their state grants; treatment programs for the mentally ill, alcoholics and drug abusers are being cut; and the disabled are being told to find a way to wipe their rear ends.
You can blame the politicians for that. But in a democracy, we the people are ultimately responsible for government decisions.
We're doing this. And if you don't like what's happening, you should let the governor know about it.
Carrying signs reading, "We've asked and asked - must we beg" and "Home Services=Dignity," the protesters rolled along a sidewalk near Cicero Avenue on Wednesday as motorists honked their horns in support.
Some hotel employees threatened to call the police and eventually did. The Bedford Park police wisely sat in their squad cars and allowed the protesters to chant, "No cuts, no caps" until they left.
Too bad they didn't throw the disabled folks in jail. Maybe then people would care.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Action Needed: Call Your Senator

We received this bulletin from the National Association for Down syndrome (NADS)

Action Needed: Call Your Senator
If you have questions, please contact Susan Goodman at

Support Long-Term Services and Supports in Health Care Reform

Action Needed:
Call Your Senator with the following message:

Support long-term community support provisions in health care reform (Community First Choice Option and the CLASS Plan) in the Health Care Reform Bill.

Thank you for including provisions that prohibit pre-existing conditions provisions and lifetime caps on benefits that discriminate against individuals with disabilities.

You can use this toll-free number: 866-324-0787 which will connect you to the Capitol switchboard and ask for your Senator's office. The link to a directory can be found at the bottom of this e-mail.


Currently, the House of Representatives and the Senate are in various stages of development of health care reform bills. The House of Representatives currently has one bill it has developed that is still under consideration (HR 3200). The Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions committee (HELP) has a bill that has passed out of the committee. The Senate Finance committee, which is the major committee in the Senate with responsibility for the Senate bill, is considering a version which has been developed by a committee of six members (3 Democrats and 3 Republicans), but on which there is no agreement by the committee. If and when this bill passes the committee, it will be merged with the Senate HELP committee bill.

In all versions of a bill being circulated in the Senate, there are prohibitions against pre-existing condition clauses (clauses that deny eligibility based on Down syndrome and other disabilities) and elimination of lifetime caps on benefits. These are positive features of the now-circulated versions.

It is important for advocates to remember that the health care Congressional activity is in an almost constant state of flux, sometimes changing from hour to hour.

A major focus of NDSC's advocacy efforts have been the provision of long-term support services for individuals with disabilities. Virtually all long-term adult services are funded by Medicaid, the major health insurance program for adults with disabilities. Parts of this program are currently being considered during deliberations on the health care reform bills. You can read a side-by-side comparison of the current health care reform bills published by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation at

Long Term Services


The CLASS Plan (Community Living Assistance Services and Supports - formerly called the CLASS Act) is a provision in the Senate HELP Committee bill that would create a national voluntary long-term care insurance program. It was developed to enable all people who are employed, even part time, to purchase an insurance policy for long term support needs. It will also help take pressure off of the Medicaid program which is now the primary source of funding for long-term adult support services. Unfortunately, the insurance industry has recently launched a full scale attack on the CLASS Plan (despite the fact that it will reduce the federal deficit). According to the American Council of Life Insurers, the CLASS Act will not adequately protect Americans who are in need of long-term care, citing the high costs of nursing home care and round-the-clock home health care services as evidence.

However, the CLASS Plan's cash benefit of about $27,000 per year (depending on functional needs) can go a long way to meeting the needs of people with disabilities by paying for support services in their own homes.

Community Choice Act

The Community Choice Act (CCA) would have required states to provide Medicaid community-based support services to all eligible individuals with disabilities (virtually all individuals with Down syndrome). The CCA would have had the effect of eliminating the state waiting lists for adult services (about 300,000 individuals in 2006). However, the CCA is not included in any version of the health care reform bills because of the high cost associated with it.

Community First Choice Option

The Community First Choice Option (CFC) was proposed by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), now Chair of the HELP Committee, as a way to get the key provisions of the Community Choice Act in the health care reform bill. The CFC Option would make it optional for states to offer individuals with disabilities the opportunity to receive support services in their homes and communities. The option would not allow caps on the number of individuals served, nor allow waiting lists. Significant enhanced federal matching funds (FMAP) would be provided, depending on cost, to encourage states to select this option. The CFC Option would be a major step in helping to end Medicaid's institutional bias.

The disability community is also working hard to get incentives for states to choose the CFC Option in health care reform bills, by increasing federal Medicaid matching payments that states receive for the Medicaid services it funds. Take Action

Call your Senator with the message found at the top of this Bulletin. To find the name of your Senator, go to and key in your zip code.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

More About Howe Developmental Center

We want to thank the Governor again for his decision to close Howe Developmental Center in Tinley Park. Although it has been a difficult time for family members of clients served by Howe, these individuals are ultimately better off.

We wanted to remind you of this video that we posted a while back:

Thanks for reading Taxpayers For Illinois.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Disability Community Thanks Governor Quinn; Taxpayer Dollars to Be Put To Better Use

In a press release from the Governor's office today, Taxpayers For Illinois learned of the Governor's decision to finally close Howe Developmental Center in Tinley park. The institution has not only proven to be dangerous for clients but also a huge drain on taxpayer money.

The Governor will close the facility based on recommendations from both the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (CGFA), who voted 9-to-3 in favor of closing the facility, and Anne M. Shannon, the former President and CEO of Aspire, who examined the issues regarding providing quality care for residents at Howe Developmental Center. In past months, Shannon met with more than 60 families of current and former Howe residents, advocacy groups, legislators and employees before presenting her recommendations to the Governor. On August 15, upon recommendation from Anne Shannon, Governor Quinn made an unannounced visit to Howe Developmental Center to talk with staff, residents, parents and family members, while also assessing the facility's operations.

Howe Developmental Center currently has 251 residents and 694 staff and the Governor is ensuring a smooth transition for these residents.

We are hoping this decision will be the first in many that help funnel taxpayer funds into humane, community care for Illinois' most vulnerable populations.

Please take a moment to contact your local papers to express your gratitude to Governor Quinn for finally closing Howe Developmental Center.

The Arc Mourns the Loss of its Greatest Legislative Champion


The Arc of the United States and all children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families lost its all time legislative champion with the death last night of Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA). His legislative achievements in the field of disability were many and far reaching. Civil rights, education and health care were the cornerstones of his efforts to help all Americans live decent and productive lives. In the rights arena, his most notable achievement was the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. He played an instrumental role in the passage of Public Law 94-142 in 1975 (now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) which gave every student with a disability the right to a free appropriate public education. Senator Kennedy was one of four Members of Congress who, along with former President George W. Bush, crafted the No Child Left Behind Act. He was instrumental in assuring that all students with disabilities would be part of the student achievement assessments under this law. Last year, he co-authored the Higher Education Opportunity Act which, for the first time in Federal law, will afford higher education opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities. Other major civil rights accomplishments that helped people with disabilities enter the mainstream of our society include the Fair Housing Act and the Voting Rights Act.

As a steady voice for comprehensive, quality and affordable health care reform, Senator Kennedy pushed hard over his decades of Senate service to expand the National Institutes of Health, created programs to protect pregnant women and children, the Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act and the recently enacted Medicare prescription drug expansion. As many have observed, his absence from the Senate this year has significantly hindered the passage of health care reform.

In his role as a member, Ranking Minority Member, and Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, he authored the Developmental Disabilities Act, established Protection and Advocacy Systems in every state, and oversaw several extensions of the Rehabilitation Act, including the addition of Supported Employment and steady increases in the minimum wage.

Senator Kennedy was first elected in 1962 and served six terms. He ranks third in total service in the U. S. Senate. He was often referred to as the "Lion of the Senate". A consummate deal maker, many of his legislative successes were due to his ability to reach across the aisle and secure bipartisan support, sometimes with the most conservative of Senators. He was an electrifying orator, his booming voice resounding off the walls of the Senate chamber. Senator Kennedy did his homework, always exceptionally well prepared for his Committee hearings, bill markups and floor speeches. He was often noted as having the best and most loyal staff on Capitol Hill.

Senator Kennedy often described his interest in disability policy due to his family history. Late in life, his father suffered from a serious stroke. His sister Rosemary was born with an intellectual disability and was sheltered during her adulthood in a private institution. His sister Eunice, who died only two weeks ago, headed up the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation and created the Special Olympics. The Senator's two sons also experience disability. Ted Jr. lost a leg to cancer as a child. Patrick, a U. S. Congressman from Rhode Island, has a mental illness.

Senator Kennedy spoke at several events sponsored by The Arc, most notably the Disability Policy Seminar. In 2001, he was the recipient of The Arc's John H. Chafee Leadership in Public Policy Award. Last month, The Arc's President, Lynne Cleveland, announced that Senator Kennedy would be this year's President's Award recipient. This award will now be given posthumously at an event in the near future.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Thank You From Taxpayers For Illinois

In May, after a long winter of debating amongst politicians, social services agencies, citizens and families across the state of Illinois were thrown into a budget crisis. Eventually, many clients served by these agencies were denied services and agencies were forced to give their staff lay-off notices.

Thankfully, due to concerned citizens like you, this crisis has been temporarily averted. Over the past 3 months, you called, e-mailed, wrote letters, sent faxes, protested in Springfield and made personal visits to the Governor and your elected officials' offices. And for that, we want to send you a huge, heart-felt THANK YOU...our efforts as a community of providers, care-givers and concerned citizens were ultimately successful.

State funding has been temporarily restored for a majority of human service agencies through December of 2008!

While many agencies are working towards a model of service that no longer relies on state funding (and the political and draconian slashing of services that come with it), we are always in need of alternative sources of funding.

Taxpayers for Illinois will be here monitoring legislator’s decisions around support for this kind of funding. Thank you for reading and look for more info again after Labor Day.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Please Call The Governor Regarding House Bill 237

This spring, the General Assembly passed HB 237 without a single “no” vote. HB 237 would include payments for all prevention, intervention, or treatment services and supports for persons with developmental disabilities, mental illness, and alcohol and substance abuse problems, as well as rehabilitation, and early intervention services provided by licensed community-based providers under the Prompt Payment Act. In addition, HB 237 would increase the interest penalty for bills under the Medical Assistance Article of the Illinois Public Aid Code to 2.0% (from 1.0%) after being delinquent for sixty days.

The 60 day deadline for action by Governor Pat Quinn on HB 237 is next Tuesday, August 25th. We need you to call the Governor’s Office in Springfield and Chicago today and urge him to sign HB 237 into law!

Please click here to take action!

Talking Points (if needed):

Not all payments for these services are currently “protected” by the prompt payment act. HB 237 would change that situation.

Community providers are currently experiencing payment delays in excess of 150 days, HB 237 would at least ensure the state is paying interest on those late payments – a common business arrangement.

By signing HB 237, Governor Quinn will be making a statement that he supports community services.

Office of the Governor
207 State House
Springfield, IL 62706
Phone: 217-782-0244

Office of the Governor
James R. Thompson Center
100 W. Randolph, 16-100
Chicago, IL 60601
Phone: 312-814-2121

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Eunice Kennedy Shriver Cared for "Forgotten Population"

As the State of Illinois continues to falter in its ability to serve its most vulnerable populations--at last check, several agencies were still waiting to recieve revised, temporary contracts that would restore only partial funding for the services they provide--the country has lost a leader in the field of disability rights.

Please take a look at the letter below from Timothy P. Shriver, CEO of the Special Olympics, in honor of his mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver who passed away early this morning....

In addition, The Sargent Shriver Center on Poverty Law (an organization founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver's widower, Sargent Shriver) recently published this statement about the Illinois Budget cuts.

It is with a heavy heart that I write to let you know that my mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, passed away early this morning.

At the time of her death -- as it was throughout her long and full life -- she was surrounded by her family, her husband, her children, her grandchildren and those who loved her.

Though at the end her body had become weak, her heart was strong and it was abundantly full. It was overflowing with faith in God’s will. It was replete with a sense of contentment about the past and a deep hope for the future. It was full of love and gratitude for those to whom she had dedicated her life’s work and who had in return given her life the gifts of clarity, aspiration and friendship.

Her heart was full indeed of faith, hope and love. She was very much at peace.

As I write to you, her extended family of the Special Olympics movement that she loved so deeply, it is hard not to recognize that these same traits that sustained her at the time of her death had fulfilled and motivated her throughout her lifetime of advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities -- or as she always said, her "special friends."

Her faith in the athletes of Special Olympics was unfailing, even from the very start. When she was young and Special Olympics was still just an idea, few people particularly cared or knew about people with intellectual disabilities. Fewer still shared or understood her dream to awaken the spirit and denied potential of this forgotten population. And yet, though others could not see, she still believed, conceiving Special Olympics in her heart before she could unveil it on the field of play.

She believed that people with intellectual disabilities could – individually and collectively – achieve more than anyone thought possible. This much she knew with unbridled faith and certainty. And this faith in turn gave her hope that their future might be radically different.

Her faith in them allowed her to hope for an army of supporters – coaches, volunteers, donors, fans – that would emerge and grow and become the foundation upon which a worldwide human rights movement would be built. It allowed her to envision a world of formerly skeptical people who would witness the accomplishments of our athletes and say "Yes! I understand!" Hope allowed her to see the invisible, fight for the isolated and achieve the impossible.

But mostly, it was her unconditional love for the athletes of Special Olympics that so fulfilled her life. As Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk and social activist reminded us: "the beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image, lest we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them."

Her love for the athletes of Special Olympics was always just like that. She never hoped that people with intellectual disabilities should be somehow changed into something they were not. Rather, she fought throughout her life to ensure that they would be allowed to reach their full potential so that we might in turn be changed by them, forced to recognize our own false assumptions and their inherent gifts.

She fought the good fight, she kept the faith, and though she knew the race for equality was not finished, she knew that the army of supporters she had hoped for long ago had become a reality that would carry and someday complete her vision. On her behalf, as we prepare to say our last goodbyes, my family and I thank you for your shared commitment to that dream.

My family and I would be proud and honored if you would take some time to learn more about her life, share your own remembrances about her, and read the remembrances of others at a website that was recently established to honor her legacy,
. In the spirit of her hope that everyone would share in the power of Special Olympics, I hope you’ll not only read and contribute to the site, but share it with friends.

With great appreciation,

Timothy P. Shriver
Chairman and CEO
Special Olympics

Friday, August 7, 2009

Howe Developmental Center

In our posting on July 6th, we mentioned Howe Developmental Center in Tinley Park. Please take a look at what our Illinois tax dollars are being spent on:

Monday, August 3, 2009

"We cannot, in good conscience, cut our way out of this state budget deficit"

In My View: Government's role as protector of disabled at issue
Every year, I tell myself, "It can't get worse." Well, I've clearly been proven wrong by this year's budget, and politics. We are in the throes of a massive dismantling of Illinois' human services system - some might say "right-sizing government," while others refer to the current budget as doomsday.

From my perspective, it is clearly the latter - draconian cuts threatening the very existence of many services and organizations.

Folks have heard warnings about service cuts and/or agency closures but seem to react based on whose ox is being gored. Most react when directly affected and the service they need no longer is available. I'm focused on community-based organizations serving people with disabilities, arguably some our most vulnerable citizens, but the budget impacts all social service agencies.

What do we know about the not-for-profit sector?

*Most are 501(c)(3) charitable corporations. They do, however, need to make money - it simply means that their profits support their mission versus paying dividends or profit to owners/stockholders. Without a margin, there is no mission!

*501(c)(3)s must comply with the majority of legal requirements to which other for-profit corporations are held.

Insurance, wage and hour, human resources, federal, state and local statutes all apply to the not-for-profit sector. These organizations often significantly affect local economies because of the jobs and money brought in.

*When 501(c)(3)s go to the bank or bond their building projects, the financial community assumes the state is good for their debt - it has historically funded them at consistent levels. Future dollars may be more difficult to secure due to the state's demonstrated lack of commitment to community-based agencies (doing the state's work).

*Community agencies often pay 20 percent to 30 percent less than market wages and benefits. An interesting paradox is that employees in community agencies must possess special skills to serve people with disabilities. These agencies, with which the state contracts, already were a bargain before the current budget crisis reduced their funding.

*If a bookstore, restaurant, gas station or construction company was informed it was going to lose 10 percent to 20 percent of its business starting July 1, how many would survive? It isn't surprising then, that many human service agencies are laying off staff, decreasing services and contemplating their very survival. An odd set of circumstances, given the various stimulus packages aimed on job retention/growth.

*Most affected agencies are safety net providers - ensuring that people without options always can count on service being available. Choice is severely limited. There is only one mental health center in Springfield. There are a very limited number of providers serving people with disabilities in any given community. Under current circumstances, some agencies won't survive and the remainder will serve far fewer people.

*Mental health is health care - mental health centers are required to have licensed psychiatrists, nurses, medications, and carry liability insurance. Why then, has the community mental health system been cut disproportionately to other healthcare providers? With access to mental health services and medications in question, the inevitable result will be greater use of hospital emergency rooms, inpatient care, police involvement, incarceration - all more costly than the currently under-funded system. And did I mention patient pain and suffering?

*Illinois ranks in the lower quartile in funding services for mental health and developmental disabilities. On some indices, we are 49th. Deinstitutionalization was a policy that moved people with disabilities into community-based systems - the same community systems that are now being decimated through budget cuts.

There have been previous budget impasses and extended sessions. This is much different.

The amount of funding cut from community agencies is significantly greater than in past years.

The worldwide recession has hit government at all levels and deficits are very real. Concurrent high unemployment and an economic downturn makes raising taxes an unpopular approach to budget resolution. Citizen expectations of government far exceed the government's ability to fund the expected level and mix of services.

We cannot, in good conscience, cut our way out of this state budget deficit. While there always are examples of waste in government, much has been eliminated and what's left, if addressed, will not come close to balancing the budget.

Yes, we all need to share the burden in dealing with the budget crisis. A fair, equitable and proportional approach always is superior to across-the-board cuts. Ultimately, we need to decide, as a society, what government's role should be in protecting and providing for people with disabilities.

Brian A. Allen, MPA, LCSW, is vice president for health-care partnerships at the Hope Institute for Children and Families.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Update From The Governor

Governor Quinn delivered a press conference this after announcing his plans for the allocation of funds in the budget.

No contracts have been issued to social services agencies as of yet.

The waiting continues.

Click here for the Governor's "final" fiscal year 2010 budget.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Illinois Budget Still Has "Question marks and a hole of as much as $5 billion"

Posted Jul 29, 2009 @ 03:39 PM
Last update Jul 29, 2009 @ 03:57 PM
Look for more details on deep state government budget cuts by the end of the week.

Gov. Pat Quinn told reporters today in Chicago he expects on Friday to release more specifics on what’s included in $1 billion in spending cuts he’s planning to make.

Quinn said he will meet with his Cabinet officials Friday morning and then make those plans public. He already has announced plans to lay off 2,600 state workers and ask workers to take 12 furlough days to deal with a major budget hole, but more details about what else will be cut have been elusive.

Quinn also could talk more then about how he plans to spend more than $1 billion in discretionary money lawmakers gave him to deal with shortages in funding as the year moves along. Education advocates, social service providers and others will be lining up for a piece of that cash to avoid or minimize cuts they’re facing in their programs and services.

Lawmakers and Quinn agreed two weeks ago on a spending plan for the full budget year that still has many question marks and a hole of as much as $5 billion. Quinn insists an income tax increase will be needed eventually to fix the problem, but there might not be enough legislative votes for that to happen until early next year.

The governor said he understands the tough situation he’s in but says he’s “fired up and raring to go” on dealing with the budget problems.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Waiting Game

"We shall never have more time. We have, and always had, all the time there is. No object is served in waiting until next week or even until tomorrow. Keep going... Concentrate on something useful."

---Arnold Bennett (1867 - 1931)

“How much of human life is lost in waiting.”

---Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 - 1882)

Some social services agencies received the following communication from DHS yesterday; sadly, while agencies wait to find out if funding will be reinstated, their clients continue to be deprived of services and laid-off employees find other employment. The disruption to the infrastructructure of these agencies and the entire state of Illinois has been immeasurable and will not be forgotten.


Dear Provider,

The Department of Human Services appreciates your support and forbearance as we go through this protracted contracting process. As you know, the state of Illinois now has a budget.

Additional dollars have been identified for the social services which will result in the modification of many of your contracts. We are now in the process of budget revisions with the Office of Management and Budgets and expect to extend new contracts, where indicated, starting next week.

Carol L. Adams, Ph.D.
Department of Human Services

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"There is just no way on Earth that you can call this budget 'balanced'"

We recieved the following communication from Illinois State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (12th District) on Monday, July 20th.


Dear Neighbor,

Over the past few months, numerous plans have been proposed to solve the state's budget crisis, ranging from income tax increases, devastating cuts in state funding for human services, and substantial layoffs. On July 15, 2009 the Illinois General Assembly passed a pitiful excuse for a budget - a haphazard borrowing plan that indiscriminately cuts services and will exacerbate the already grave problems facing the state of Illinois.

My friend Rich Miller, author of the Capitol Fax Blog, said it best in a blog post shortly after budget negotiations ended last week:

"The budget - if you can call it that - which passed the General Assembly yesterday, has as much as a $5 billion hole in it, borrows over $7 billion from Wall Street and state vendors, disguises huge cuts to some private social service agencies with close to 90% funding for others and sets up the state for a surefire disaster next fiscal year.

Break out the party hats.

There is just no way on Earth that you can call this budget "balanced," or serious-minded. It is, at best, a punt until next year. Actually, it's more like a blocked punt with a big loss of yardage."

This is precisely why - for the first time in my 15 years as a lawmaker - I voted against a budget.

It is being (inaccurately) reported that human service providers and grant-funded services will receive 86 percent of their normal funding -- this is patently false. At best, this figure is misleading because it is only an average of the cuts that thousands of providers will face. In reality, while some providers may be fully funded or see their budgets cut by only 5 percent, others will be faced with cuts of 50 percent or more.

Another reason I voted NO was because in this case, the General Assembly completely abdicated its responsibility for passing a line-item budget, leaving these decisions to be made at the Governor's discretion. A lump-sum budget like this is unprecedented in the State of Illinois.
As Chair of the Human Services Appropriations Committee, I understand the need for belt-tightening and know that reasonable cuts were definitely in order, especially given the excess and waste that came to define the Blagojevich administration; however, this lopsided budget will be devastating for the clients of many agencies and community providers, and will result in layoffs and program cuts.

I could not in good conscience support such a jumbled, draconian solution that will further compromise the state's long-term fiscal solvency. It will put Illinois into even further debt and create a budget hole for next year that some predict could top $10 billion. Adding to this, the state has to pay back the borrowed pension funds...with interest.

Illinois has a structural budget deficit that has been growing over the last 10 years. Rather than continuing with financial gimmicks, such as fund sweeps, debt restructuring, sale of assets or more borrowing, we need a comprehensive solution, which includes: 1) spending reforms to restore long-term financial stability, 2) prudent reductions that protect core services, 3) improvements in our budget process for more transparency and accountability, and 4) additional revenues.

Citizens throughout the State are crying out for a responsible budget, and they want leaders who are willing to work together to make the difficult decisions needed to move Illinois beyond its current financial rut. I am eager to work with concerned parties and my colleagues to produce a comprehensive, more responsible solution in the coming months.


Sara Feigenholtz
State Representative
12th District

Monday, July 20, 2009

Families Feel The Pain

While Human Services agencies wait to find out what kind of funding they will receive it is important to continue to communicate with your legislators and the press.

Please take a look at this letter to the editor from yesterday's State Journal-Register:

Funding ‘solution’ will hurt many families

"While Gov. Pat Quinn saved private human service agencies from disaster by vetoing the doomsday budget, most of them will still not receive the funding they require from the new budget to meet the needs of our citizens. By not increasing income taxes, the legislature left the governor with the unenviable task of having to decide which services will receive the heaviest reductions and which will be given barely enough to keep going.

The patchwork funding he was left to deal with is not a permanent answer — it only postpones for a few months the necessary steps we must take to get Illinois back on a firm financial footing. These cuts, coupled with horrendous delays in state reimbursement, will put many community service agencies out of business in the months ahead.

Maybe then, when enough families feel the pain, they will generate pressure on our legislators to do the right thing."

Don Moss
Illinois Human Services Coalition

"State Leaves Disabled In Lurch"

Although a budget has been passed, the damage that has been done to human services agencies in Illinois may be irreversible.

Please take a look at Mark Brown's column in yesterday's Sun Times for a glimpse at how the budget cuts have impacted people with disabilities in Illinois. Mr. Brown tells the story of Tom Morissette of Elmhurst, who was born with Down Syndrome.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

"[A sheltered workshop or community learning center] could involve Tom stuffing envelopes, assembling pens, connecting nuts and bolts, filling Easter baskets or making Christmas ornaments, depending on what contracts the agency has at the time. Once a week, Tom also helps deliver Meals on Wheels to elderly residents, a task he particularly enjoys.

That is, that's what Tom and the others did until a couple of weeks ago, when the Illinois Human Services Department cut off all state grants for such work-training programs in response to the budget stalemate. The Ray Graham Association was forced to close its work program.

Since then, Tom has been stuck at home, mostly watching television or sitting on the porch swing....

Even though legislators passed a budget Wednesday that will presumably restore some of the cuts, agencies like Ray Graham Association are still awaiting word on how they will be affected and when they might resume."

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Budget Passed; Human Services Agencies Forced to Compete for Funds

Last night, the Illinois General Assembly and Governor Quinn finally approved a budget for FY 2010, which only funds community agencies at 86% of FY 2009 levels.

The Governor and his agencies will now determine what programs will receive more and less than that percentage of funding. This means that human services agencies will be forced to fight with one another for their fair share of the human services budget.

The University of Chicago School of Law has posted further information about this.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Chaos Reigns Supreme in Springfield; Lawmakers Lounge and Watch Baseball

Please take a look at Doug Finke's article, "Governor, leaders try to avoid chaos" published in The State Journal Register yesterday for an update on the chaos that is not, in fact, being avoided at all.

Meanwhile yesterday, while human services agencies are still unclear of their fate, law-makers rushed to conclude their meetings so that they could attend to a bigger priority: watching the All Star baseball game in St. Louis...

This is an excerpt from Charles Thomas' report for WLS yesterday...

"... dozens of members in both chambers wanted the sessions cut short [on Tuesday] so they could attend the Major League Baseball All Star Game 100 miles south [of Springfield] in St. Louis. No more work on the budget will be done until Wednesday morning, when the leaders return to the governor's office for yet another meeting. Then the House and Senate reconvene in the afternoon, when they might pass a budget."

Finally, we received this communication from the ARC of Illinois this morning detailing the state of things for human services in Illinois as of the morning of July 15th...

We have been talking to the Governor's office, Democrats and Republicans and the news is not good for us in the short term!

I have to tell you that it is really disturbing me that human services is being used to push for increased revenue when legislators should be doing this because it is the right thing to do!

Legislators are right now working on the Governor's proposed budget that will fund us at anywhere from 86% to 90%, depending upon who you are talking too! We expect the legislators to leave it up to the administration to determine what areas of the budget will be cut and this could take some time. New contracts would then be reissued.

Legislators are saying we will get what we need in the long term, but the short term leaves us out in the cold. The proposed budget does not address over $3 billion in backlogged bills!

The new revenue is based upon the state borrowing $3.5 billion, up from $2.2 billion last week.

We need legislators to be our leaders and restore all cuts to human services. We are already an under funded system that cannot afford further cuts. It sounds like the votes are there for this reduced budget. Then we will have to fight for months to restore a system that is already 51st in the nation!

If this is the case, Phil and I have recommended to the Coalition a few weeks ago that we then hold mass hearings across the state with legislators on the impact of these cuts on all of human services.

The Leaders meet with the Governor at 11:00 this morning and legislators go back into session at 1:00. Phil and some other advocates will meet with Senate President Cullerton this morning.

Tony Paulauski
The Arc of Illinois

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

July 14th Legislative Update

Rick Pearson and Ray Long's article in the Chicago Tribune provides information regarding the legislator's meeting today.

Ryan Keith at The State Journal Register informatively reports on all of the numbers involved with the budget crisis.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Last Chance for Humane Legislation

Legislators Go Back To Work On Tuesday

When the legislators go back into session tomorrow, one of three things may happen:

1. The legislators may override the Governor’s veto of their budget and the cuts will stand.
2. A temporary budget may be passed which would restore funding for some or all of the human services programs.
3. A new budget could be worked out between the legislature and the Governor.

Please continue all of your advocacy efforts in one final push to get the legislators to do the right thing.

More Media Coverage of the Cuts

Christina Wright's piece for the Associated Press, "In budget limbo, Ill. agencies begin cutting back" and Phil Kadner's article, "Writer lives in fear he'll wake up and aides won't be there" both discuss the devastating effects that the budget cuts have had on people in Illinois.

Finally, here is a video that explains the results of the cuts on The Neumann Association , a social services agency on the north side of Chicago that serves adults with mental illness and developmental disabilities.

Friday, July 10, 2009

URGENT: Contact Stermer and Quinn and Demand Continuation Contracts

Help Keep The Momentum Going

Governor Quinn’s executive branch directives have begun to address the need to assure that vital governmental functions and community services continue. In addition, Governor Quinn issued a letter to State employees assuring them that despite the absence of a state budget they will be paid. Finally, Quinn’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has rescinded all budget cuts and is putting revised continuation contracts on the street.

Please tell the Governor to rescue the children, women, men, families and workers who have been forced onto the street. Due to draconian cuts in Governor Quinn’s Department of Human Services 220,000 children, women, men, and families are being thrown out. The Governor’s office estimates that over 220,000 children, women, men, and families are being thrown out of critical mental health care and substance abuse prevention and treatment services.

Please call the Governor's office and state that you want him to issue continuation contracts to temporarily fund services for people who have no where else to turn.

When we called the Governor's 800 number below, we received no answer. When we called the Governor's Springfield number below we were transferred to the 800 number. When we called the Springfield office again we were put on hold for 5 minutes. Finally, someone answered with "Governor's Office" and when we explained our concerns and interests we were again transferred to the 800 number which rang and rang and rang. When someone finally answered, we were told that there are 3 phones being managed by 1 person right now.

We expressed our concerns and were told that the best number to call is: 217-782-0244 (The Governor's Office of Citizens' Action")

Nonetheless, here is the official contact infor for the Governor...

Governor Quinn’s contact info:

Patrick Quinn
State of Illinois
James R. Thompson Center
Suite 16-100
100 West Randolph
Chicago, IL 60601-3220
800/642- 3112 toll free
312/814-2121 phone


207 Statehouse
Springfield, IL 62706
217/782-6830 phone
217/558-0898 fax

Jerome Stermer’s contact info:

Jerome Stermer
Chief of Staff
Office of the Illinois Governor
James R. Thompson Center
100 W. Randolph, 16-100
Chicago, IL 60601
312/814-2121 phone
312/814-4794 fax


207 State House
Springfield, IL 62706
217/782-0244 phone
217/524-4049 fax

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Progress Illinois

Please take a look at for a geographical breakdown of the cuts including the statistical ramifications that are already in place.

Despite the fact that legislators plan to go back to work on the budget on July 14th, the cuts to social services have already had a tragic effect on people across illinois.

Please call your legislators and tell the following:

1. Restore all cuts to human services.

2. A 10% cut to human services is simply not acceptable when we already rank last among the states in Developmental Disabilities (2009 State of the States Report, David Braddock, Ph.D.).

3. Vote NO to the override of SB 1197, the "doomsday" budget.

4. Vote NO to the override of HB 2145.

5. Vote YES to pass HB 174. This is the income tax increase we parents and advocates support.

It could be your son, daughter, grandson, granddaughter, sister or brother affected by these cuts. Besides the individuals no longer receiving services already, you have put out of work the low income staff that served these individuals. Lost services and lost jobs in the State that ranks 51st are unacceptable. Please do the right thing and pass a humane budget that serves all of Illinois’ citizens.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Those People

Please take a look at this documentary, "Those People" by Alison Flowers featuring Fred Friedman, a self-advocate.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Results of Irresponsible Legislation

While legislators continue to enjoy their summer vacations and the Governor continues to ignore the pleas of the most needy people in his state, agencies have begun the arduous process of laying off employees, denying services and, in some cases, shuttering their doors completely.

This article from yesterday's State Journal Register tells the story of Kamp Kaleidoscope, a summer day camp for developmentally disabled children run by the Springfield Arc, Inc. (SPARC). Due to a 95% cut to their services, Kamp Kaleidoscope closed its doors for the summer "leaving the parents of the 69 participants scrambling for child care."

While parents across the state are desperate to find care for their children, letters to the editors of downstate and Chicago papers continue to pour in.

Please take a look at the following letters from concerned care-givers and citizens alike:

From The Chicago Tribune:
Please raise my income tax
June 29, 2009

Raise my taxes, please!

Illinois legislators must pass an increase in the state income tax to continue funding human services at current levels.

We all know someone who will be devastated by the drastic cuts in human services. Maybe the working, low-income family that will lose the child care assistance that helps pay for quality child care -- or maybe an adult with a developmental disability who is being successfully supported in his community. The Illinois Secretary of Human Services projects that 1 million infants, children and adults will lose services and that 200,000 people in the non-profit community will lose jobs.

My friends and neighbors - all people of modest means - support an income tax increase because we know it's needed.

If legislators do the right thing this week, we will remember them at election time for their political courage.

-Bonnie Dohogne, Evanston

From The Peoria Journal-Star
Forum: State budget needs to look out for the needy and disabled
June 22, 2009

We all know that times are tough and money is short. Illinois lawmakers have once again failed to put a budget together that will meet the needs of the state's citizens. People with disabilities, along with the elderly, poor, children, and those with mental-health needs are the major losers in this ridiculous political showdown.

Everyone has their own theory about the reasons for this disaster, and there's probably plenty of blame to go around. The problems with the Illinois budget are not new. We struggle with the same issues year after year, the lack of revenue and the assurance that what is there will be used thoughtfully. Our legislators are intelligent men and women. They need to forget the political strategies and game-playing and do the jobs to which they were entrusted by their constituents.

People with disabilities and the service providers who support them cannot afford funding cuts! The system is severely underfunded already, as more than 17,000 people with disabilities in Illinois wait to be selected to receive funding for services.
We cannot cut our way out of this budget predicament. New revenue has to be part of the solution, and our lawmakers need to sit down and get to work. No cuts to disability services are acceptable!

-Deb Fornoff, Washington

From The Beacon News
Special-needs children shouldn't be used as political pawns
July 3, 2009

An open letter to Illinois legislators:

As president of the first and largest Special Needs PTA in the state of Illinois, I have been watching very closely the situation surrounding the Illinois budget. I have been bombarded with e-mails from families and agencies that would be affected by these proposed cuts. I have attended Human Services rallies and am still overwhelmed by the number of people in attendance.

As you may know, PTA is the single largest children's advocacy organization in the United States. I feel it is my responsibility and privilege to advocate on behalf of the children and families that will be affected by these cuts. Since our PTA is housed in a school district that, alone, has nearly 4,000 children identified with special needs, these cuts will directly impact every single one of these families.

In our PTA alone, we have children with developmental disabilities, autism, mental disorders, visual impairments, hearing impairments and more. The DHS has been told to eliminate programs for people with developmental disabilities, including autism programs, respite and family assistance programs, and to close the Illinois School for the Deaf and the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired.

Early intervention programs will be eliminated if these cuts take place. If the block grant funding is cut for at-risk kids, the preschool programs for these at-risk kids will no longer exist. The schools won't even be in a position to absorb those supports because the state is already behind in payments to schools.

I'm asking you to go back to Springfield and work as long as necessary to resolve this crisis. Using our children as pawns in these games you are playing and employing scare tactics in an effort to raise taxes is deplorable.

Forget the infamous Illinois politics and put the children and families of our state first for a change. There has to be a compromise somewhere. This state already ranks dead last in services to the disabled. Don't give up on these individuals and their families!

Cutting these services or eliminating them entirely will not balance the budget. Denying special needs families the tools and services they require in order to participate actively, productively and independently in their communities simply cannot be an option worth considering.

-Lori Price, President, Indian Prairie District 204 Special Needs PTA, Aurora

Please take a moment to again contact your legislators and Governor Quinn and tell them they "must not" support the override of Senate Bill 1197. This is the doomsday budget. They should support House Bill 176!

Monday, July 6, 2009

“The General Assembly can afford to live in a state of denial, but human services organizations can’t”

This weekend, while most of the country celebrated the birth of our nation, thousands of people in Illinois were denied needed social services and/or lost their jobs in social services agencies.

This article from Crains Chicago Business by Monée Fields-White points out that while lawmakers are not planning to return to Springfield until mid-July to discuss Governor Quinn's veto of their budget, the fiscal year began on July 1st for most social services organizations. Because these organizations can't afford to gamble in such an unstable economy, they have begun to layoff employees and turn away people seeking services. Here is an excerpt from the article:

“The General Assembly can afford to live in a state of denial, but human services organizations can’t,” said Ralph Martire, executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, a non-partisan research group in Chicago. “They can’t afford to put off important fiscal decisions for their own organizations while the General Assembly plays politics....(read more)”

Further evidence of Illinois lawmakers' paralysis in the face of budget decisions can be found in a Chicago Tribune editorial from July 4th detailing the "saga" of Howe Developmental Center in Tinley Park. The state operated facility has proven to be not only expensive but dangerousm and yet Governor Quinn has prevented Howe from closing despite a recommendation from the Taxpayer Action Board to close the facility (and the Blagojevich administration's plan to close Howe on July 1st, 2009). State dollars continue to be poured into its operation. Here is an excerpt from the editorial:

This isn't just a budget or safety issue. It's also a matter of quality of life for the disabled. Ten years ago the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states must house the disabled in community based settings rather than in large institutions when it's possible to do so. Community care provides more social contact and better work and education opportunities. (And it's less expensive than large institutions)...

The community care mentioned above, is exactly the kind of services that have been slashed in the current budget.

In August of of 1818, lawmakers stated their reasons for establishing the first Illinois Constitution:

" order to provide for the health, safety and welfare of the people; maintain a representative and orderly government; eliminate poverty and inequality; assure legal, social and economic justice; provide opportunity for the fullest development of the individual; insure domestic tranquility; provide for the common defense; and secure the blessings of freedom and liberty to ourselves and our posterity..."

Please take a moment to call Governor Quinn, Senate President John Cullerton and Speaker of the House Michael Madigan and tell them to come back from their fourth of July vacations, reconvene the General Assembly this week, and do as the founding fathers of our state would have wanted them to do; ask them to protect Illinois' most vulnerable citizens and work together to pass a more humane budget that protects the welfare of their people.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Impact on Clearbrook

The following was information received from Tony Paulauski at the Arc of Illinois:

CLEARBROOK - 25 Staff were terminated July 1st and are no longer working today (July2) ONE WAS MAY SON'S (MITCH WHO HAS AUTISM) MAIN WORKER THAT ALLOWED HIM TO WORK. Now what? He sits all day and has negative behaviors!

80 long term clients did not come to Clearbrook today and were told to stay home! "We can't serve you anymore!!!!" SOME HAVE BEEN SERVED BY CLEARBROOK FOR MORE THAN 25 YEARS! Lost jobs; parent has to stop working to stay home to take care the child with disabilities!

Stop playing politics with our kids' lives. But for the grace of G-d it could be your child or grandchild. You can't cut 5, 6 or 7+ billion. We are 47th/51st already before these cuts. This is a tragedy that could have been avoided. There must be more revenue, a permanent solution.

The blood well flow, literally. Just do what must be done. have a conscience. just do the right thing. this time, those that DON'T vote for a tax increase will be the ones we will not support financially or with votes. You have forced, you have motivated families who were never active in campaigns to become extremely vocal.

Brian Rubin

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Those who rely on state funding are left in limbo.

News from The Southern Springfield Bureau

Quinn: Social services that continue service risk not being paid for it

BY KURT ERICKSON, The Southern Springfield Bureau
July 1, 2009

SPRINGFIELD -- It likely will be at least two weeks before Illinois gets a budget on the books.

Under a game plan that began emerging Wednesday, lawmakers will be called back to town July 14 to try and find some resolution to the stalemate that has left the state without a spending plan for the fiscal year that began July 1.

Members of the House and Senate left the Capitol Tuesday without approving an income tax hike. Without the added revenue, Gov. Pat Quinn said he would veto the budget sent to him by lawmakers in May because it doesn’t contain an enough money to keep state programs afloat for a full year.

Quinn was expected to issue his veto message Wednesday afternoon.

The impasse left many who rely on state funding in limbo. Quinn said social service agencies and others who provide services "do so at the risk of not being paid."

The effect on other state services may be virtually unnoticeable for at least a few more weeks. The first round of state worker paychecks for July doesn’t go out until the middle of the month.

"Until a budget is in place, the state has very limited authority to pay its vendors and grantees," Quinn noted in a statement issued Wednesday morning. "The state, however, will continue to operate and provide essential services to protect the health, safety, and welfare of Illinois citizens, such as maintaining prisons and providing emergency services and legally-required social services."

Quinn wants lawmakers to approve a 50 percent boost in the income tax rate as a way to generate an estimated $4 billion.

That revenue would help fill a budget deficit of $11.6 billion.

Lawmakers who have balked at an income tax hike said Quinn needs to show he’s ready to negotiate in good faith.

For example, state Rep. Bob Flider, D-Mount Zion, said Quinn should sign legislation enacting a statewide construction program because the added jobs could jumpstart the economy.

"He’s put all his marbles in the tax increase basket," Flider said.

Although Quinn could call lawmakers into session before July 14, legislative leaders say that date was set aside after they surveyed members to determine when they all would be available to resume negotiations.

“People want to know where they stand, right?”

People want to know where they stand, right?

According to Rep. Susan Mendoza, D-Chicago, Right now, you know where they stand? Under the bus.”

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Suit Filed Against the State!

Equip for Equality, a protection and advocacy group, filed a law suit against the state. Click here to read about the suit.

Great information about the budget mess from the Daily Herald!

State budget mess leaves plenty of questions
By John Patterson Daily Herald Staff
Published: 6/29/2009 12:03 AM
SPRINGFIELD - With lawmakers returning to the Capitol today to take another crack at balancing the state's budget, the Daily Herald seeks to answer some of the basic questions behind the current situation.

Q. What's going on with the Illinois budget?
A. Good question, because no one seems to know. With time running out on the current budget, there seems to be little urgency from elected officials to fix the problem. The new state budget year starts July 1.

Q. What happens if there's no budget on July 1?
A. In theory, there's no authority to spend money on anything, though the state will continue to collect your tax dollars.

Q. Have lawmakers considered a budget for the new year?
A. Yes. They've approved one. But it only has enough money for about six months and leaves it to Gov. Pat Quinn to make it work. So far, however, they've not yet actually sent that plan to the governor's office for approval.

Q. What would that budget do?
A. It would eliminate funding for numerous not-for-profit human service providers who provide therapy and care for the disabled, addicted, poor and elderly on behalf of the state. For instance, Des Plaines-based Lutheran Social Services said it would have to turn away nearly 10,000 people who get care through its programs across the state.

Q. What would Quinn do?
A. He doesn't support that budget and said he will not allow such cuts to happen. "I was always opposed to that," Quinn told reporters.

Q. So who told the groups they'd lose funding?
A. Quinn. He said he had a legal responsibility to do it when lawmakers rejected a budget-balancing tax increase last month, even though he now says he won't make those cuts.

Q. Does this all have to be solved by July 1?
A. Not really, but it needs to be resolved soon.
"You can go about 10 days, 15 days overtime and everything doesn't come completely unhinged. You go past that and it gets real dicey," said former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar, who had his own overtime budget fights with lawmakers.

Q. When was this supposed to be done?
A. The Illinois Constitution was changed in the 1994 to set a May 31 deadline in order to avoid budget fights backing up to the start of the budget year. But in recent years that deadline has routinely been blown.

Q. What happens when the budget deadline is missed?
A. Approving a budget requires additional votes. Before May 31, approval is a simple majority: 60 votes in the 118-member House, 30 votes in the 59-member Senate. On June 1, approval requires a 3/5ths majority: 71 votes in the House and 36 votes in the Senate.

Q. What does that mean politically?
A. It means in the House, the Republicans will be needed to approve any budget deal even if every Democratic member goes along with it, which probably won't happen. There are 70 Democrats and 48 Republicans in the House. In the Senate, there are 37 Democrats and 22 Republicans.

Q. Any other political factors?
A. Elections are just around the corner. Candidates can start circulating petitions for office in August and the last day to get on the 2010 primary ballot for major party candidates is in November. In addition to governor and other statewide offices, all 118 Illinois House seats and 21 of the 59 state Senate seats are up next year. One theory is lawmakers might be more open to tax increases after they see whether anyone is going to run against them in the February primary.

Q. How big is the deficit?
A. According to lawmakers' own budget office, $11.6 billion. However, the current budget was never fully balanced and began with an $835 million shortfall. So the total deficit is $12.4 billion. Yet in recent days, that number has varied, usually to a lower figure, suggesting lawmakers may use some new accounting to come up with a new deficit that'd be easier to fix.

Q. What are the proposed fixes?
A. In May, the Senate approved raising the personal income tax to 5 percent from 3 percent, the corporate income tax to 5 percent from 4.8 percent and begin applying the sales tax to a litany of items and services currently not taxed to come up with $5.6 billion a year. Combined with billions in federal stimulus money, the plan would go a long way toward wiping out the deficit, though at least $2 billion more would need to be cut.
The House considered but rejected a smaller, two-year income tax increase proposed by Gov. Quinn that contained no sales tax hike. The Senate tax plan was never voted on but clearly doesn't have support in the House.

Q. Didn't they already raise some taxes?
A. Yes. The House and Senate voted to increase alcohol taxes and vehicle fees. But that money would be used to finance road, bridge and school construction among other projects. That money's not for the budget.

Q. Anything new being talked about other than taxes?
A. There's a plan being put together to borrow nearly $2 billion to make the required pension payment and then pay it back over the next few years. It's attractive to lawmakers because it reduces the amount of money they need to come up with to balance the budget; and the interest rate is likely to be far less than if the state just skipped the payment, so it doesn't make the pension system's poor fiscal state any worse.

Q. What about cuts?
A. Republicans, and many Democrats, contend not enough has been cut to even talk about tax increases. Even Republican leaders say the state can't cut its way out of this mess, but they want "fundamental" changes to government before they put any votes on Democrats' tax plans.

Q. What do you mean the state can't cut its way out of this?
A. Running the state - everything from prisons to police to school funding - costs roughly $30 billion a year. The total deficit is more than one third of that. For perspective, every state employee could be laid off and the total savings would be roughly $4 billion. Of note, once construction spending and other state expenses are added in, the total state budget is about $60 billion.

Q. What are some of the changes Republicans want?
A. GOP members have pressed for changing state pension systems to require future state, university and public school employees to work more years and pay more of their income toward reduced pension benefits. The state constitution forbids changing benefits for anyone currently in a state pension system, so changes would only apply to those hired after the changes would be made.
Republicans also are pressing for expanded managed care use in Medicaid.

Q. What about gambling expansion?
A. Added casinos and slot machines at Arlington Park and other tracks have been proposed but House Speaker Michael Madigan has said he doesn't see it as a viable solution.

Q. How about state layoffs and furloughs?
A. Gov. Quinn raised the possibility of a dozen furlough days for state workers. However, that'd have to be voluntary or negotiated with the employees' union. If Quinn wants to lay off anyone in the employees' union, he must provide 30 days notice and so far he hasn't.

Q. What are the chances of this being fixed soon?
A. That's a good question since no one, not even the state's leaders, seems to know. Knowing of this impending budget disaster, Quinn ordered lawmakers back to the Capitol last week. They left after two days without taking a vote on any budget cuts or moneymakers. The House returns today, the Senate tomorrow.

Asked what's going to happen, Quinn said: "We'll have to roll up our sleeves."

Monday, June 29, 2009

"Our View: Illinois kicks disabled out of wheelchairs - again"

The media continues to respond to the issue even if the politicians do not.

Terry Bibo's article in the Peoria Journal-Star on Sunday points out that even when funds are allotted to those in need, the money is often poorly spent.

And this editorial, "Our View: Illinois kicks disabled out of wheelchairs - again" also from Sunday's Peoria Journal-Star, expresses advocates' outrage at legislators using their citizens as pawns in their politicking. An excerpt is included below:

"....we are nothing short of livid when we read, as we did in the Chicago Tribune last week, that many legislators would prefer not to vote on any tax hike until they think it's safe to do so - after the Nov. 2 filing deadline, when they'll know whether they have a primary challenge next year. The self-preservation crowd can do us all a favor and resign now. They are walking and talking advertisements for term limits.

Our mood does not improve when we read in this newspaper about Rep. Jehan Gordon passing the buck for these cuts to Republicans and the governor, as if she as a legislator in the dominant party has no responsibility at all. Make no mistake, this meltdown rests at the feet of majority Democrats, so far. Yes, Gordon is young and a rookie, but comments like those are no way to earn an endorsement
....(

URGENT: Tell The Governor to Rescind His Order to Secretary Adams

As the doomsday nears, it looks more and more likely that the State of Illinois will be dealing with a massive crisis on July 1st and thousands of disabled, elderly and children will be left without services.

Last week, Governor Quinn ordered DHS Secretary Carol Adams to proceed with the implementation of the draconian budget cuts. When agencies asked how to deal with the thousands of people who will be displaced by these cuts, the Secretary had no response.

With 2 days left, the only course of action now is to urge Governor Quinn to rescind his order to Secretary Adams.

Please call, e-mail and fax the following message to Governor Quinn's Chief of Staff Jerome Stermer using the contact information below:

Jerome Stermer's Phone Number Chicago: 312-814-2121
Phone Number Governor Quinn's Office: 312-814-5220
Fax Number Chicago: 312-814-4794
Fax Number Springfield: 217-524-4049

"Please tell Governor Pat Quinn that he has the authority to direct the Department of Human Services to issue continuation contracts with human service agencies to begin July 1, 2009 while he and the legislature continue budget discussions. The Governor does not have to decree that the cost-cutting contained in the “Doomsday” budget start immediately.

Please tell Governor Pat Quinn that he has other choices than to direct Secretary Adams to cut services effective July 1, 2009. People with disabilities are counting on you to get this message to the governor. We are counting on the governor to do the right thing and order Secretary Adams to issue continuation contracts."

Friday, June 26, 2009

"It's A Pretty Safe Group To Pick On"

Taken from an editorial in the Chicago Tribune today:

"Every year, it's the social service agencies who are left out on that limb, never sure they'll get enough money to keep doing their very difficult jobs. In the end, we suspect, Doomsday will be averted once again. But it's unforgivable that the sick, impoverished and disabled are held hostage year after year after year -- and it's especially disappointing that it was Quinn who played the card this time.

The nice-guy governor probably thought he had set the stakes unacceptably high by promising drastic cuts to programs for orphans and elders. The truth is, it's a pretty safe group to pick on. Politicians don't lie awake worrying that the social services lobby will run them out of office."

Meanwhile, two Chicago White Sox speak out against the impending budget cuts.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Statement on Cuts From Representative Greg Harris

Representative Greg Harris today issued the following statement regarding the budget cuts:

Rep. Greg Harris - 13th District
Springfield Update - June 25, 2009

Budget Meltdown

Session this week began with encouraging signs that solutions (even temporary ones) for the State's financial crisis could be near. It didn't take long for the wheels to totally come off the wagon, and now we are in even a more uncertain situation. To recap, the House and Senate passed bills to sweep excess special funds and authorize refinancing of state debt (HB2400 and SB1433) to alleviate some of the revenue shortfall in the FY10 budget. This would have allowed just under $1 billion in new funds to be applied to SB1197 which funds all the State's distributive grants (e.g. human services, MAP, etc.)

This week the House considered SB415 which would have authorized Pension Obligation Notes and allowed asset smoothing to be used as an accounting tool by the various pension funds. The immediate effect for FY10 is that it would have allowed for full funding of the FY10 pension payment (as opposed to the partial payment in the Governor's introduced budget) and freed up approximately $2.2 billion for the FY10 operating budget.

The problems began when Governor Quinn came to the House Democratic caucus to talk about the budget scenario and his proposed budget plans. It soon became obvious that the Governor's staff did not have written materials with details of his proposals so we could analyze the impact of these funds on the deficit, but also that the Governor's budget staff estimates and the legislative budget staff estimates did not jive, nor did the Governor have a definitive plan that explained his plans for allocating the additional $3.2 billion dollars that members could review.

In addition, as I am sure you may have seen in the media, estimates of the overall budget deficit have fluctuated dramatically, as has the Governor's announced plans for layoffs, furlough days and human service cuts. All of this fed into an air of uncertainty about the fiscal position of the State, at a time where certainty (or at least a common understanding of conditions) is essential for going forward to construct effective budget solutions.

In no way do I mean to imply that there is any kind of intentional chicanery or fudging going on as numbers fluctuate. However, as legislators we have repeatedly asked for detailed budgetary analyses and documentation of assumptions used to come to certain projections so that we can make informed decisions about these incredibly important and complex financial situations. In any budget there are many assumptions made. (Such as assumptions about revenue growth, market timing, accrual of expenses, etc.) Whether we agree or disagree with the assumptions, we need to know what they are before we can decide if we can agree with the conclusions they support and then act accordingly.

The fact that not only do the Governor's conclusions continue to shift, we are not able to assess the assumptions that have led him to those conclusions.

Those of us who are willing to support a tax increase, especially, want to be sure that any increase be only the amount absolutely necessary to maintain the viability of our human service safety net, and that prior to requesting new revenues every budget has been tightly managed, cuts have been made to "tighten our belt", and that revenues are being directed solely to those programs where the human need is the greatest.

Right now, amidst this uncertainty, I and many others do not have that comfort. Over the next several days the Governor's staff has committed to providing detailed documentation outlining their proposed budget and all its components, along with assumptions used in arriving at those figures. Our caucus partisan staff will be reviewing their numbers as well.

Hopefully when we return to Springfield Monday we will have sufficient information to make informed decisions. If we do not have enough accurate information to make the best decisions possible, I hope that the Governor will consider using available revenue to continue to operate in the new fiscal year at FY09 levels until a real and comprehensive solution can be passed.

Find this and every update from Rep. Harris at

"It’s evident that tax increase is necessary"

Don Moss, Coordinator for Illinois Human Services Coaltion, submitted the following letter to the editor of the Springfield Journal-Register on June 23rd:

It’s evident that tax increase is necessary

Thank you for your excellent coverage of the financial plight that Springfield social service agencies are facing as the state budget goes unresolved. These agencies are a sample of thousands more — both public and private — across the state that are on the brink of shutting down some or all of their programs that provide needed services for our most vulnerable citizens. It is becoming more and more apparent that a tax increase is the only way to bring our state out of its horrible financial deficit that is threatening these programs. Expansion of gambling or leasing the lottery and the toll roads are merely Band-Aids that would do little in dealing with the huge deficit with which we are faced.

Don Moss
Illinois Human Services Coalition

The following satirical cartoon appeared in the State-Journal Register on the same day:

While legislators have left Springfield, we urge you to continue to voice your opinion on the budget cuts. Unfortunately, it looks as though a vote on the tax hike won’t come until next week on June 30th—the last day of the fiscal year.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Please Sign and Forward IARF's "Save Our Services!" Petition

The Illinois Association of Rehabilitation Facilities (IARF) has developed an online petition asking Governor Quinn and the General Assembly to "Save Our Services!"

We are asking you to send the link to all of your colleagues, friends, family members, and anyone you can think of who wants to make sure funding for community services and supports for persons with developmental disabilities and mental illness.

IARF has a signature goal of 10,000.

Sign the petition here.

Comptroller Dan Hynes' Letter to Governor Quinn

The Associated Press today is reporting on the letter Dan Hynes has submitted to Governor Quinn regarding the budget cuts and a tax increase. In the letter, he accuses Quinn of being inconsistent about how big of a tax increase is needed and discusses the need to review the budget more thoroughly in regards to state spending.

We appreciate his concern for the impact that these budget cuts will have on human services.

Please click here to view the entire letter from Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes to Governor Pat Quinn.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Fact Sheet: House Bill 174

The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability has provided us with the following "fact sheet" which provides details about House Bill 174; the bill in question when it comes to a tax increase.

FACT SHEET: HB 174 Education and Fiscal Responsibility Act
PROBLEM: Illinois’ fiscal system is broken.

State revenues cannot meet the cost of existing human services, education, and pension obligations.
The reality is that the current revenue system does not keep pace with existing costs, adjusting solely for population growth and inflation over time. This revenue gap or “structural deficit” is reflected every year as state government cuts programs, reduces staff, raids other funds, defers payments to healthcare providers and borrows against the state pensions to balance the budget as required by the state constitution. In short, Illinois is not generating enough revenue to meet existing obligations. The real cause of the state’s budget deficits is not overspending. Despite, having the fifth largest population of any state in the nation, Illinois ranks 45th in spending on services.

The state’s tax system, initially designed in the 1930s, is outdated and does not grow with the modern economy as a result, Illinois generates less revenue than needed to maintain current public service levels, adequately and fairly fund education, and make its required pension payments from year to year.

SOLUTION: Illinois needs a comprehensive package of fiscal solutions.

  • Policymakers can fix the state’s broken fiscal system. Illinois must modernize the state tax system in order to raise enough money to pay its bills – this requires a comprehensive package of fiscal solutions. HB 174 raises approximately $7 billion in new revenues while modernizing the state’s tax system and making it fairer; doubles the state income tax credit Illinois homeowners receive for property taxes paid on their principal residence; increases the corporate income tax rate from 4.8% to 5%; and makes meaningful new investments in education.
  • Illinois must close the structural deficit. To attain sound financial footing and fund needed public services into the future, Illinois must close this budget hole with new revenue. The state currently has a deficit of $9.2 billion, while the General Fund is projected to be around $30 billion. Cutting spending on essential services such as education, healthcare and human services by up to 30% not only makes no sense, it would devastate communities across Illinois, while lengthening the recession.
  • Illinois must reform education funding. Illinois has the most unfair school funding system in the nation, where spending differences per student can be as high as $19,000 between districts. HB 174 would significantly reduce these funding discrepancies by devoting 33 1/3% of all new revenues to the Common School Fund that provides general state aide to K-12 education, particularly in low and middle income communities across the state. HB 174 reduces reliance on property taxes to fund schools by doubling the Illinois residential property tax credit.
  • Illinois must adequately fund human services. Despite growing demand for public services, spending on human services decreased by $387 million, or 10%, between 2001 and 2004, after adjusting for inflation. Without comprehensive fiscal reform, human services funding will continue to decrease and Illinois working families will suffer. In fact, if Illinois balanced its budget by cutting $9 billion in spending, the state would lose over 128,000 jobs and increase its unemployment rate to over 11% (state unemployment stands at 10% as of June 18, 2009.)

For more information, please see the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability’s Moving Forward: To Counter the Current Recession, Illinois State Government Should Maintain or Enhance Spending - Even if it Means Progressive Tax Increases - Rather Than Cut its Budget, March 2009 report on the website at

HB 174 Fiscal Solutions Package
  • Mandates a significant increase in the annual appropriation for grants to institutions of Higher Education, that is community colleges through public universities.  Funds education accountability reforms.
  • Maintains and expands grants for high-poverty schools.
  • Funds teacher and principal mentoring programs.
  • Provides funding for science, math and technology programs.
  • Increases the personal income tax rate from 3% to 5%.
  • Increases the corporate income tax rate from 4.8% to 5%.
  • Expands the sales tax base to cover 39 different consumer services that are already taxed by Illinois' neighbor states.
  • Triples the state's Earned Income Tax Credit, providing tax relief to low income, working families.
  • Doubles the residential property tax credit homeowners can claim against their state income tax bill from 5% to 10%.
  • Provides meaningful support to local governments by fully funding the Local Government Distributive Fund, reducing the pressure on skyrocketing property taxes.

The Illinois State Senate approved a revenue plan that would have funded the state’s critical human needs, addressed its long-term structural deficit, and provided some relief from regressive taxation.

On May 31, 2009, HB 174 was passed in the Senate 31-27-1.
HB 174 was never called to a vote by the House before the legislature adjourned.
For More Information: Ralph M. Martire, Executive Director Center for Tax and Budget Accountability (312) 332-1049;

"Tax Measures Help Balance State Budgets"

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has put out an excellent article about what is happening nation-wide relative to tax increases and state budgets during this recession.

Nicholas Johnson, Andrew Nicholas and Steven Pennington say, "By raising taxes, states can help ensure that those families and individuals hurt most by the recession do not face even more difficulties because of cuts in government programs and services they need, including those involving assistance with housing and health care, or access to higher education. Unfortunately, many of the spending cuts that states have enacted or are considering would have the most harmful impact on low- and moderate-income families and others hit hard by the recession. Tax increases can avert such cuts."

In addition, the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability has issued a fact sheet that explains House Bill 174. Information to be posted later today.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Legislators Go Back To Work

As legislators return to Springfield this week, please call your legislators to tell them to work to craft a bipartisan operating budget solution that does not contain draconian cuts for Illinois’ most vulnerable care and treatment.

AARP has set up the Illinois State Budget Hotline, toll-free at 1-888-616-3322, to connect the public directly to their legislators on this issue. According to a Marketwire press release on June 16th, AARP opposes the following cuts, specificially:
  • Community Care Program slated to cut by more than half, leaving over 20,000 without the services they need to remain in their communities, subjecting them to more costly institutional care, such as nursing homes.
  • Closing all four Illinois veterans' homes -- leaving over 1,000 veterans without health care and other services.
  • Circuit Breaker program cut by 50% -- which helps over 270,000 older Illinoisans struggling with high Rx costs and property taxes.
  • Slashing funding for the investigation of neglect and abuse in nursing homes.
  • Cutting home services for the disabled -- leaving over 5,000 people with no community access to the programs that help them remain independent.
A super majority is required in both chambers to pass legislation with an immediate effective date:
  • The state cannot completely cut or tax its way out of this mess in a one year budget cycle.
  • An income tax increase can't pass without some GOP support in the House as any measure would need 71 votes to pass in the House. Senate President Cullerton’s spokeswoman, Rikeesha Phelon, said the Senate President doesn’t have commitments from all 37 Senate Democrats on a tax increase.
  • According to figures released by the Governor’s office: 175,000 people will lose community mental health services, dramatically increasing homelessness, institutionalization and incarceration rates.65,000 people with alcohol and substance addictions will lose treatment.
Meanwhile, Neil Steinberg continues to cover the budget cuts for the Sun Times. Please take a look at his latest editorial from today's paper.