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Tasha Green Cruzat on the 2017 Illinois Kids Count Report (WCIU-TV)

Voices’ President, Tasha Green Cruzat, on WCIU-TV discussing the 2017 Illinois Kids Count report and what all of us can do to support kids in our state. https://youtu.be/rU_f-mKlK1Q

The Governor’s Proposed Fiscal Year 2018 budget: Balanced -in name

With the hope of closing a budget gap of more than $7 billion, Governor Bruce Rauner has presented the legislature with a Fiscal Year 2018 budget totaling $37.3 billion. His proposed methods for closing the gap includes some additional revenue but also a set of legislative measures to reform pensions, procurement, state employee health care, and human services.

Absent any change in state law (as well as what the Governor terms as spending controls), he puts the costs of an FY18 maintenance budget at $39.7 billion. To arrive at the lower amount of the proposed budget, the Governor has built in cost savings from a range of items that includes:

  • Offering a new level of pension benefits, Tier 3, to employees of the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS), the State Employees Retirement System (SERS), and the State University Retirement System (SURS).

In 2010, the state created a lower level of pension benefits for those state and local employees who were hired after 2010. This was the “Tier 2” plan. Under the Governor’s proposal, new employees of TRS, SERS, and SURS could choose from either the Tier 2 or Tier 3 plan. For those not covered by social security, Tier 3 would consist of a hybrid of a defined-benefit plan and a defined-contribution plan. Employees covered by social security would have the option of enrolling in a defined-contribution plan (the new Tier 3 option) or the Tier 2 plan.  However, local employers would need to pick up the complete pension costs for employees choosing either Tier 2 or Tier 3.

  • Ending late-career salary spikes by local employers.
  • Eliminating funding for health insurance for retirees of TRS or SURS as well as a health insurance/pension subsidy to the pension fund for Chicago public school teachers.
  • Reducing state employee group health insurance benefits.
  • Freezing state employee general and step salary increases for several years (for those in bargaining units) while implementing a merit bonus system for “high-performing workers”.
  • Enacting a set of procurement reforms that include allowing Illinois to join other states in competitive bidding contracts.
  • Selling the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago.
  • Moving non-Medicaid covered seniors enrolled in the state’s Community Care Program (which provides support services to seniors allowing them to remain in their homes versus nursing homes) to a modified package of services (named the Community Reinvestment Program).
  • Additional steps on how the state calculates actuarial assumptions for the pension systems and system contributions based on payrolls.

The Governor proposed some of these measures last year but the legislature did not adopt them.

Even if the state enacted these measures into law, the Governor’s budget still falls approximately $4.6 billion short of estimated revenues for FY18.

To close the gap, the Governor lists savings and revenue from a “grand bargain” that could include new revenue and potentially: a property tax freeze, changes in the workers’ compensation system, additional pension system changes, and further procurement reforms.  Regarding pensions, Senate President John Cullerton has proposed a “consideration” model that would offer employees one of two choices of how future salary increases and cost-of-living adjustments are calculated for the employee’s future pension payments.

Absent any of the changes noted above, the Governor’s listed maintenance budget for FY18 is $7.2 billion higher than anticipated revenue.

Human Services

The proposed FY18 budget includes additional funding for the state’s child care assistance program (moving the income eligibility level back up to 185% of the federal poverty level). It also includes additional funds for the state’s early intervention program and home services.

At the same time, the Illinois Department of Human Services’ budget contains the discontinuation of funding, or a reduction, for a number of programs.

DHS reductions


PreK-12 funding includes an additional $50 million for early childhood education and full funding for the General State Aid Level (set at $6,119/student). The proposed budget also includes full funding for bilingual education and categorical reimbursement for regular/vocational transportation.

There is additional FY18 funding for the state’s Monetary Award Program (a proposed $401 million versus FY15 funding of $364 million), which provides college grants to low income students. Yet, the state hasn’t appropriated any funds for FY17 MAP grants.

State universities, for which state appropriation authority regarding general funds expired at the end of last year, will see a decrease of 10% from FY15 levels under the proposed budget.

Higher Education -FY18

Bill backlog and remainder of FY17

The budget indicates the level of outstanding bills for the state could reach $14.7 billion by June 30th of this year and notes the Governor’s willingness to work with the legislature to “sell bonds or take other actions to reduce the backlog of bills”. As to whether any appropriations bill for the remainder of FY17 might begin to address the bill backlog, the Governor’s budget director indicated at a Senate hearing the day after the Governor’s budget address that the Governor wanted to first establish the framework for an FY18 budget before taking up any supplemental measure for FY17.

After being downgraded twice in the last two years by the three major credit rating agencies (Fitch, S&P, and Moody’s), Illinois’ credit rating for all three now sits just two notches above non-investment grade. A lower credit rating generally translates to higher interest rates for any future issuances.

However, the even higher price is the impact the budget impasse is having on vital human services and the state’s higher education system. Universities have cut staff and programs. Human service providers have cut staff or shut their doors altogether. With the stopgap budget expired and no general revenue appropriations for the remainder of the fiscal year, a number of providers likely will not make it much longer unless the Governor and legislature approve a plan that provides adequate revenue to fund these essential services. Failure to arrive at a full-year budget for the last 20 months has already frayed the state’s human service safety net. Prolonged inaction by our elected officials will have a devastating impact on Illinois for years to come.

Budget Crisis Update: Devastating Impacts Continue to Grow

The lack of a full state budget nine months into the fiscal year continues to have devastating impacts for children, families, and communities. In an update to its September 2015 report, the Fiscal Policy Center captures the damage occuring in 60 different public service areas. The resulting large-scale dismantling of vital parts of Illinois’ health, human service, and higher education systems is inflicting long-term damage that will take many years to repair.

Medicaid at 50: Transforming Lives through Better Health

Medicaid has transformed health care for millions of Illinoisans–most of them children–over the past 50 years. To celebrate the anniversary of this critical program, we’ve created a new chartbook explaining Medicaid in simple terms, why it is so important, who is covered, and why it is such a good deal for Illinois–all with easy-to-understand language and infographics. Celebrate with us by learning about the proven short- and long-term benefits of this transformative program and the importance of safeguarding improvements in health care.

How Does Illinois Fare in the 2014 National KIDS COUNT Data Book?

The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual KIDS COUNT Data Book shows how demographic, social, and economic changes combined with major policy developments have affected the lives of lower-income children in both positive and negative ways in the past 25 years. See how the child well-being trends in Illinois closely parallel nationwide trends.

Thank you for a Successful 2014 Illinois Kids Count Awards Benefit!

Voices extends a warm thank you to all who made the 2014 Illinois Kids Count Awards Benefit a success. Highlights included an outstanding performance by the After School Matters Choir, emcee Rob Johnson of CBS, and honoring the outstanding work of Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Thank you to all who attended and helped raise money for the work ahead!

Issue Brief: Improving Tax Fairness Through Income Tax Reform

Illinois’ tax system is upside down. When adding up the effect of all state and local taxes, Illinois asks middle- and low-income households to pay a percentage of their income that is two to three times higher than the highest-income households pay. An improved income tax is key to fixing our tax system so that we all pay our fair share to make sure Illinois has the money it needs for public resources we all value—including quality education, roads and bridges, and safe communities.

Statement on Budget Forecast from Governor’s Office

In response to a new report from the Governor’s Office, FPC Director Larry Joseph warns that, unless the General Assembly acts, massive revenue losses beginning in January 2015 will lead to billions of dollars in service cuts. Joseph says putting Illinois on the right track — in terms of fiscal responsibility, economic growth, and strong families and communities — requires stable and sustainable revenue.  

Dire Consequences of Illinois’ Looming Fiscal Cliff

Illinois will lose a combined $7 billion in revenue in FY 2015 and FY 2016, if current income tax rates expire as scheduled in January 2015. Such a revenue collapse would result in a deluge of harmful spending cuts to priorities such as education and other services that families and businesses rely on and that are critical to building a stronger economy.

What the Fiscal Cliff Would Mean

  • Revenue losses larger than during Great Recession. The state will lose $2 billion of revenue in FY 2015 and another $5 billion in FY 2016, far greater than the $5.6 billion loss in FY 2009 and FY 2010.
  • Huge cuts to key priorities. To balance the budget in FY 2016, the first full fiscal year after the rate expiration, all non-mandatory programs would need to be cut by more than 20 percent.
  • Increase in the backlog of unpaid bills. In FY 2013, the state reduced its backlog of unpaid bills by $2.5 billion. The coming fiscal cliff will halt this progress and likely lead to a large increase in the backlog.
  • More credit downgrades. The major bond rating agencies have warned of further credit downgrades, which would increase the costs of infrastructure investments that strengthen the state’s economy.


Revenue Loss Chart vs. Great Recession


Only One Responsible Choice: Maintain Revenue

  • Policymakers must face fiscal reality. It is impossible to lose $7 billion in revenue in FY 2015 and FY 2016 without huge cuts to state priorities in education, health care, human services, and public safety.
  • The income tax rate increase has improved Illinois’ fiscal condition. Without it, the combination of budget cuts and growth of the backlog would now be $18 billion higher.
  • The fiscal cliff must be addressed early next year. To avoid deep cuts in the FY 2015 budget, which begins July 1, 2014, the General Assembly needs to address the revenue collapse this coming spring.


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National KIDS COUNT Shows Lingering Effects of Recession

Indicators of child well-being show some signs of improvement in education and health, but the economic crisis continues to have a negative impact on children, according to new data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The 2013 KIDS COUNT Data Book identifies three troubling trends: the lingering effects of the recession on employment; growing disparities in well-being between low-income children and their middle-class and more affluent peers; and the disproportionate effects of these negative trends on young children.

Lingering Effects of the Recession

In 2011, more than 30 percent of Illinois children lived in families where no parent had full-time, year-round employment. In addition, 12 percent of Illinois children had at least one unemployed parent — the highest rate in the Midwest.

Child poverty has continued to increase. In 2011, 22 percent of Illinois children lived in poverty, up from 17 percent in 2006. (In 2011, the federal poverty level for a family of four with two children was about $22,800.)

The number of children in low-income households (those with incomes below 200 percent of poverty level) has likewise increased. The proportion of low-income children in Illinois rose from 36 percent in 2006 to 43 percent in 2011.

Disparities in Education

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) shows that reading achievement among Illinois children at the beginning of 4th grade has improved only modestly in recent years. More alarming are the wide achievement gaps among student groups. In 2011, 4th grade reading scores for low-income students in Illinois were lowest in the Midwest and second lowest among the nation’s 10 most populous states.

Gaylord Gieseke, president of Voices for Illinois Children, emphasized the significance of these findings: “In 3rd and 4th grades, children make an important transition in school — from learning to read to reading to learn. Children who can master this shift are more likely to be successful in school and in adult life.”

The KIDS COUNT Data Book also indicates that high school graduation rates in Illinois have changed very little since 2006. The most recent data from the Illinois State Board of Education shows that in 2012, the graduation rate for low-income students was only 73 percent, compared with 82 percent for all students statewide.

These findings are especially disturbing in the context of the erosion of state investments in education over the past several years. Nearly half of all students in Illinois public schools come from low-income households. The Illinois Kids Count 2013 report shows that many school districts across the state have low-income student populations above 75 percent.


Anne Klassman
(312) 516-5564

Larry Joseph
(312) 516-5556

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Impact on Young Children

Poverty rates remain highest among the youngest children. In 2011, 24 percent of Illinois children under age 6 lived in poverty, compared with 18 percent in 2007

According to Gieseke, “We know that growing up in poverty, especially in early childhood, can harm children’s health, their cognitive and social-emotional development, and their economic opportunities as adults.”

Both the Casey Foundation and Voices for Illinois Children have long emphasized the critical importance of early learning opportunities, especially for children in poverty. Until recently, Illinois was a leader among states in expanding access to preschool, but the Great Recession and the state fiscal crisis have seriously eroded those gains.

The 2013 KIDS COUNT Data Book calls for smart investments that focus on strategies with evidence of high return in child well-being and healthy development. Such investments should involve weaving together programs that support new parents — such as home visiting programs — with high-quality early childhood and prekindergarten programs that ensure every child enters school ready to learn.

The KIDS COUNT Data Book features the latest data on child well-being for every state, the District of Columbia, and the nation. This information is available in the newly redesigned KIDS COUNT Data Center, which also contains the most recent national, state and local data on hundreds of measures of child well-being. Data Center users can create rankings, maps and graphs for use in publications and on websites, and view real-time information on mobile devices.

For the most recent Illinois Kids Count report, “Making Policy, Moving Progress,” visit: http://www.voices4kids.org/publications-multimedia/kids-count-reports/illinois-kids-count-2013.

For more information about the Illinois Kids Count project, visit: http://www.voices4kids.org/our-priorities/kids-count.

Follow the Annie E. Casey Foundation and KIDS COUNT on Twitter @aeckidscount and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/KIDSCOUNT.  

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Voices for Illinois Children is a champion for the full development of every child in the state, working with families, communities, and policymakers on child-related issues. Voices Kids Count work is part of a nationwide network of state-level projects supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. For the most recent Illinois Kids Count report, “Moving Policy, Making Progress,” visit www.voices4kids.org