What the Stopgap Spending Plan Means for Illinois Going Forward
By Dan Lesser
On June 30th, the General Assembly passed, and Governor Rauner signed into law, a stopgap spending measure that will provide funding to government operations, human services and higher education through the first six months of FY17, and to K-12 education for the entire fiscal year. Although many details remain unclear, we know that the human services sector will receive about 65% of what it’s projected to be owed by the state during the 18 month period that began in July of 2015 and will end in January of 2017.
We welcome this measure of relief to human service providers, institutions, and the Illinoisans they serve. But let’s be clear: this legislation will only stanch the bleeding; it will not heal, repair or reverse the damage to critical service infrastructures.
Take HIV Prevention. As a Chicago Tribune story illustrates, the stopgap spending plan will not allow providers to be able to test and treat individuals who should have been diagnosed during FY16, rebuild community service networks that broke down over the past year, or rehire qualified staff who found other jobs. The same applies to autism services, as another Tribune story shows. And, no budget or spending plan will reverse the damage caused to autistic children who lost access to interventions during a critical period of their childhood.
The inability of the stopgap spending plan to repair the damage of the budget impasse is clear in higher education, too. Hours after the passage of the stopgap measure passed, Moody’s downgraded the credit ratings of Governor’s State University, Southern Illinois University, Eastern Illinois University and North Eastern Illinois University, citing the long-term funding uncertainty of the budget impasse. Further, officials from Western Illinois University announced that the stopgap spending plan is insufficient to rehire the employees the budget impasse forced them to layoff.
Finally, without new, sustainable revenue streams, Illinois will not be able to get through the full fiscal year without increasing the backlog of unpaid bills by billions of more dollars. The dedicated special funds utilized in the stopgap simply do not contain enough money – or replenish fast enough – to meet the state’s needs in the second half of the fiscal year.
Thus, lawmakers continue to fail to fulfill their most basic obligation of governance: to pass a budget that invests in and provides stability for the services, small businesses and institutions that make Illinois families and communities strong.
In the next six months, our members and partners across the state will make crystal clear to the Governor, lawmakers and those running for office that come January, we expect nothing less than a fully funded year-long budget that chooses revenue over cuts.
Dan is the Director of Economic Justice at the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law and Coordinator of RBC.