One year after the passage of the Affordable Health Care Act, families and individuals across the country are feeling the benefits. Yet, in Illinois, health and human service providers are still facing continual cuts and, in turn, their patients are not receiving the quality health care promised to them by the State.
As the Chair of the Senate Human Services Committee, I recently called a subject matter hearing regarding proposed cuts to the State’s human services budget in the current fiscal year. Service providers from around the state testified on the negative effect of proposed cuts to vital programs that affect people from all walks of life.
The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability (CTBA), recently released an analysis of Governor Quinn’s proposed Fiscal Year 2012 budget. According to CTBA, the four “core” state services- education, health care, human services, and public safety- still receive prioritized funding. Even with prioritized funding, human services- made up by the Department of Aging, the Department of Human Services and the Department of Family and Child Services- is the only of these areas of Quinn’s proposed budget facing major ostensible cuts in funding adding up to $211 million less than last year while the others increased. After inflation, all four prioritized areas are significantly underfunded compared to their rate in 2000.
What is even more disheartening is the disproportioned cut proposals within the human services area which mostly affects the neediest of our state, including cuts to child care, teen parent and mental health services, drug treatment facilities and programs for poor seniors. In his budget address, Governor Quinn proposed cutting $350 million to childcare services and $33 million cut for mental health facilities. Organizations that depend on funding from the Community Services Grant have lost over $1.7 million in funding for the rest of the year and have seen their whole budget of $5.3 million cut in the Governor’s proposed budget. The Circuit Breaker Pharmaceutical Credit will lose all state funding if Governor Quinn’s proposed budget is enacted.
CTBA states that Illinois has the fifth largest population and economy of any state but ranks 44th in the nation in terms of General Revenue spending for services. To keep pace with the growing population in Illinois, funding to human services should increase, not decrease, yet every year we are faced with more cuts.
Budget cuts are just as necessary for stabilizing our budget and economy as reforms and revenue enhancements, and everyone has to tighten their belts. Unfortunately, service providers are increasingly dependent on fundraising efforts to alleviate the burden caused by the loss of State funding. Their staffs’ efforts are shifting towards fundraising just to keep facility doors open instead of providing counseling and services, and programs are suffering.
We must be diligent in our endeavor to stabilize our State budget, but we must not lose sight of the needs of the people we represent. I fear with continued cuts to human services our State will revert back to relying on institutions and prisons rather than community rehabilitation. Rehabilitation creates working, tax-paying citizens in place of inmates and patients.
State Senator (D-Chicago)
3rd Legislative District
Chair, Illinois Senate Human Services Committee