A Glimmer of Good News

Illinois has seen plenty of bad news in the fiscal department in the month of November. State pension costs were apparently under-estimated in the spring budget-making process. Some fiscal experts are now saying that most of the new revenue from the income tax increase will be needed to cover that much-higher pension cost. Yet, as if that weren’t enough, discussions of tax incentives—with very large price tags—are still going on. If approved, Illinois will have another huge hole in the budget.

Against the backdrop of this financially doom-and-gloom news, there is one small, but significant, glimmer of hope.

When the General Assembly returns to Springfield on November 29, 2011, our legislators will have the opportunity to restore funding to some of the human service programs that were cut in the 2012 state budget. This is very good news for some community-based programs across the state as well as several state facilities currently slated to be closed.

The plan—being crafted by House and Senate Appropriations Chairs and their staffs—is expected to include additional funding for several critical areas: mental health grants, addiction prevention and treatment, indigent funerals and burials, emergency and transitional housing, and state facilities for persons with developmental disabilities and mental health patients. Specific amounts for these line items of the budget are still being reviewed.

There is no bill number at this time, and the details could change. Since it will be considered during the veto session, the bill must pass by three-fifths vote in both the House and the Senate. It’s too soon to celebrate, but Republican and Democratic caucuses have reportedly agreed to the basic framework of the plan, which relies on reallocated funding rather than new appropriations. Therefore, the restored funding will keep within the 2012 mandated spending cap of $33.17 billion.

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