By: Mark Glennon*
High fives abounded Thursday in Springfield after both houses of the General Assembly approved spending $700 million on social services. But has anybody really taken a good look at all that’s in it? Not many in Springfield, evidently: It went through House committee in the morning and was called for vote that afternoon, only about an hour after members received a staff analysis.
How many times have we seen this before, both in Springfield and Washington? Cram bill through, find pork and favoritism later. In this case, most of it looks legit, but there’s plenty that’s suspicious and plenty that doesn’t appear to address the kinds of humanitarian emergencies that have arisen from the state’s fiscal crisis. Go through the list yourself, linked here. It’s just titles but it’s all we have.
It passed the House unanimously except for three members who voted present. One was Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton), who isn’t exactly a wallflower. She asks questions. She posted the following on Facebook today. Good for her:
Today papers are full of articles touting the bi-partisan agreement passed yesterday on nearly $700 million in funding for human services. This bill was set in motion weeks ago when House members agreed to use other state funds to partially fund higher education and that later a similar bill would use only other state funds to fund human services. SB2038 is the human services appropriation bill that resulted.
Unfortunately, SB2038 funds many programs that are not a priority for a state in crisis and on the brink of bankruptcy. Colleagues argued that there is never a perfect bill and that we will always fund some items that we may not agree with. Illinois no longer has that luxury. We are currently not even paying the bills for services that are fundamental to running a state. We owe real dollars to food service providers to our prisons, direct services for the aged and disabled (only partially funded in the bill), and dentists and doctors who have provided care to state workers and are going out of business.
This bill funds gambling addiction, welcoming centers, immigrant integration services, teen parent services, and racially designated family commissions. A list of the programs getting funded is available through my office, firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s public information. Some of the titles are misleading and some of the programs I have no idea what they do or the results they have achieved – and neither do many of those who voted for this bill less than one hour after seeing it.
A side note on the funding stream. The higher education bill mentioned above used funds set up in 2011 when the General Assembly passed the tax increase and said 7% of all income taxes collected must go to the “Educational Assistance Fund” and only used for k-12 or higher education. This became an “other state fund” and the set aside was also suppose to be “new” money into education not replacement dollars from general revenues. That is the same deal with the “CHS” fund or Commitment to Human Services fund. The same 2011 tax increase bill said 1/30 of all income taxes collected must go to this fund. The money can only be spent on Human Services. Unfortunately, budgeting this way with income tax revenue, revenue intended to meet the priority needs of the state, now limits flexibility when it is most needed.
*Mark Glennon is founder of WirePoints. Opinions expressed are his own.