Today, the new governor gave us our first good look at his intentions for this year's state budget.
The governor's stated priority is balancing the budget and getting our finances back in order, but he has presented a plan that relies on false savings.
Most notably, crediting $2.2 billion in pension savings to Illinois' account this year is dishonest, with a lawsuit that challenges the 2013 law still unresolved. Pension reform is a complex, long-term process, not a quick fix.
Meanwhile, the governor's extreme spending cuts don't eliminate needs; they simply shift costs elsewhere. For example, cutting one-third of the higher education budget will put pressure on colleges and universities to hike tuition and fees that are already difficult for most middle-class families to afford.
Slashing funding for local governments in half will result in higher property taxes and rent payments.
Gov. Rauner's plan for a slight increase to education funding is positive, but elsewhere in the draft budget, he recommends shifting the cost of health insurance for retired teachers to local school districts, offsetting the benefits of increased General State Aid.
And as we know from experience, Medicaid cuts don't keep people from getting sick; they force them to put off seeking care until their health is in jeopardy and they require much more expensive emergency room or inpatient treatments. Gov. Rauner's proposed reductions to the medical assistance budget total $1.5 billion and include slashing Illinois' provider reimbursement rates (already almost the lowest in the nation) and limiting low-income women's access to treatment for breast and cervical cancer. He also intends to once again eliminate optional services, such as routine dental care, that we tried cutting from Medicaid in 2012 but restored last year because the savings we saw weren't worth the additional costs of emergency care and the impact on the health of low-income and medically vulnerable individuals. It is disappointing and frustrating to see this administration starting back down the same failed path.
Please click here (Budget_overview_memo.docx) to read more about the governor's proposed Fiscal Year 2016 budget, which also includes reductions to funding for mass transit, developmental disabilities, mental health, HIV/AIDS, care for wards of the state and more.
In hearings starting next month, my colleagues and I will thoroughly discuss each agency's needs and where savings can be achieved. But the numbers in today's proposal simply don't add up. I look forward to working with the governor's office on a balanced budget that is realistic and fulfills our responsibilities to our most vulnerable residents.