FY17 Budget Proposal: No Balanced Budget in Sight
On Wednesday, Governor Rauner proposed a state budget for Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17) that, while it increases funding for early childhood education and public schools, cuts higher education and fails to restore a number of human services such as the Teen REACH afterschool program and autism services that have been eliminated due to the lack of a fully enacted budget for the current fiscal year.
According to the Governor, the FY17 “maintenance” budget (which largely reflects FY15 service levels) would total nearly $39 billion but be supported by only $32.8 billion in revenue due to last year’s income tax cuts. To reduce this huge revenue gap, the Governor proposes an initial round of spending cuts of approximately $2.6 billion.
With a roughly $3.5 billion deficit remaining, he then presented lawmakers with two options:
- approve elements of his “turnaround agenda” that would be part of a $3.5 billion budget package of new revenue and additional cuts; or
- cut the budget by an additional $3.5 billion.
Under the latter option, the Governor said that, if the General Assembly failed to agree with him on cuts, he wants new authority to make budget cuts, change provider rates set in law (e.g. Medicaid reimbursement rates), and modify statutory transfers out of the general funds (e.g. cutting distributions to local governments and local public transit systems).
As shown above, the FY17 budget builds in general funds cuts that include a set of pension-related changes ($748 million), changes to employee group health insurance ($445 million), and changes to the procurement system ($319 million). The Governor also includes as revenue $200 million from the anticipated sale of the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago. Many of these measures require either changes to state law or contracts with state employee unions and may not be possible to realize. The document also indicates that the state may seek to only repay $15 million of $454 million borrowed from other state funds at the end of FY15.
Cuts to Human Services
The Governor proposes general funds spending cuts of $300 million in health and human services when compared to the maintenance budget. This estimate reflects both programmatic cuts and savings the Governor says he anticipates from better coordination of services between state agencies, increased utilization of federal funds, and greater emphasis on less expensive community care over institutional care.
As one example, the Department on Aging is seeking to shift non-Medicaid eligible seniors from the Community Care Program (which provides support services to seniors allowing them to remain in their homes versus nursing homes) with a Community Reinvestment Program. The Department says it expects to save $198 million with the change, which it claims will give it more flexibility in providing a modified package of services to individuals.
The proposed budget restores funding for child care assistance to families with incomes of up to 185% of the poverty level. However, non-court mandated human services that were proposed for cuts in the FY16 budget (for which the state provided no contracts in FY16) for the most part remain omitted in the proposed FY17 budget. The Department of Human Services budget does contain what is termed a “placeholder” for $25 million in human service grants. During a budget briefing, administration personnel indicated negotiations between the executive and legislative branch would determine what services these grants would cover.
Two important home visiting programs, Health Families Illinois and Parents Too Soon, both have proposed small 2.3% increases in funding. Early Intervention sees a substantial proposed increase of nearly $7 million. Redeploy Illinois, which helps decrease youth incarceration by providing community based alternatives, and Comprehensive Community Based Services for Youth (CCBYS), which helps children avoid involvement with the juvenile justice and child welfare systems, both also have proposed 2.3% increases. Neither is currently receiving funding.
PreK-12 Education Increased; Higher Ed Cut
For public universities, general funds support would be cut by approximately 20% from FY15 levels, but additional money is provided for “performance funding,” bringing the overall reduction to 16%. Funding for the Monetary Award Program (MAP), which provides grants to low-income students to help them afford college, remains level (compared to FY15) at $364 million. Currently, nothing in higher education is funded.
The Governor proposes an additional $75 million for investments in early childhood education and an additional $55 million in general state aid to support public schools. However, unless there is new revenue, cuts to other service areas would be needed in order to pay for these increases. The Governor proposes a 2.3% increase to bilingual education.
Bill Backlog Continues to Grow; Proposal Shows No FY17 Decrease
The state started the fiscal year with $4.4 billion in bills. Comptroller Leslie Munger has indicated, absent any further action by the Governor and legislature, the backlog could grow to $10 billion by the end of the fiscal year. The budget book simply notes that the Governor is willing to work with the legislature to reduce the backlog and that several options, including financing, should be explored. The Governor’s budget does not anticipate running a general funds surplus in FY17, which would be required to reduce the backlog.
Current Fiscal Year Still Lacks Budget
In addition to the FY17 budget, there still remains the urgent matter of having no current FY16 budget nearly nine months into the budget year. Every day that lawmakers and Governor Rauner fail to carry out their duty to enact a state budget means that Illinois is dismantling core service areas and investments in its future.
Unfortunately for Illinois, a likely scenario is one not laid out in the Governor’s budget book: inaction. In this scenario, Illinois continues to add to the backlog of unpaid bills and falls further into debt while children, families, communities, and our state’s economy suffer the short and long-term consequences of not investing in them.
Our elected officials must come together to enact budgets for FY16 and FY17 that raise the necessary revenue to meet the needs of Illinois children, families, and communities.