SPRINGFIELD — Lawmakers in the Illinois House have released a proposed budget for human services, but some say discussions should not end until it’s passed and on the governor’s desk.

By Melissa Leu

SPRINGFIELD — Lawmakers in the Illinois House have released a proposed budget for human services, but some say discussions should not end until it’s passed and on the governor’s desk.

House Bill 3717, amended late Tuesday, laid out numbers for the Department of Human Services, Department of Aging, Department of Children and Family Services and Department of Human Rights.

State Rep. Patricia Bellock, R-DuPage, said the total came just under the $12 billion the House’s Human Services Budget Committee was tasked with divvying.

Committee Chairwoman state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, could not be reached for comment.

House budget leaders have taken a greater role in determining the state budget this year, detailing each line of state spending. In the past, the Legislature would pass lump-sum appropriations for the governor to delegate.

Although the numbers are out, state Rep. Rosemary Mulligan, R-Park Ridge, said the process is still in motion, and to take any proposals with a grain of salt.

“We’re not done yet, so we don’t have total agreement. Until we bring the bill out in committee, I don’t think anything is agreed upon,” said Mulligan.

Before the proposed budget measure heads to Gov. Pat Quinn, it must first pass the House and be agreed on by the Senate.

Some advocates, however, remain worried that what may be written in paper may end up being the final product.

Terry Sullivan, a coordinator with the Health Care Council of Illinois, was at the Capitol on Tuesday, rallying supporters of funding for nursing homes. He called Quinn’s proposed $140 million cut “devastating” to those working and living in nursing homes.

“I don’t see how you (can) cut from the sickest and the frailest (residents) of Illinois. It doesn’t make sense. There isn’t room to cut when you’re taking care of ventilator patients and people who are very, very ill. You cut, and lives are in danger,” Sullivan said.

The council, which serves as the “joint legislative, regulatory, communication and political arm of the Illinois Health Care Association and the Illinois Council on Long Term Care,” represents the nursing home profession in the state, according to its website.

Because nursing homes are labor intensive, cutting funds will ultimately cut jobs, Sullivan said.

“It is going to impact 7,000 jobs throughout the state. … We’ve never had a cut like this before,” Sullivan said.

The House is working with a lower total budget of $33.2 billion than the governor’s $35.4 billion projected budget. The Senate is working with allocating $34.3 billion.

Adam Andrzejewski, who ran unsuccessfully in the Republican gubernatorial primary, said lawmakers shouldn’t be balancing the state budget on the backs of those most in need, but a balanced budget was necessary.

“We don’t have a tax revenue problem. We have near record levels. We have a spending problem,” Andrzejewski said. “The spending side of the budget needs to be honed. It needs to become efficient. We can’t tolerate the culture of corruption in Springfield any longer.”

Balancing the budget, however, means slashing spending in areas that require the most money, said Charlie Wheeler, a public affairs reporting professor at the University of Springfield in Illinois.

“(Human services) does not spend as much as Medicaid, but human services as a (whole) does indeed spend a lot of money,” said Wheeler. “If you want to save big bucks, you have to cut programs that cost big bucks. That’s sort of elementary.”

Human services accounts for about 36 percent of the entire House budget.

With a May 31 deadline to pass the budget, Mulligan said any reductions will be painful, but lawmakers are working to minimize harm for everyone affected.

“We haven’t got the money, so we’ve got to do something about it. We’re trying to negotiate with each other in a way that would be the best for the people of Illinois,” Mulligan said.

Leave a comment

The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published.