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Illinois Politics

Gov. Pat Quinn Slashes Illinois Human Services Funding, Prompts Opposition from Illinois Lawmakers

(Springfield, IL) — February 21, 2011. The Friday bad news dump of deep mid-year budget cuts to multiple state human service programs by Governor Pat Quinn prompted advocates to alert numerous lawmakers who are now hopping mad and pushing back swiftly against the Governor’s cuts.

On Friday, Illinois Department Human Services Secretary Michelle Saddler lowered the boom and notified substance abuse prevention and treatment providers, among others, that Quinn was eliminating all state non-Medicaid funding, which covers 80% of the 69,000 people receiving treatment, effective March 15.

According to Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association CEO Sara Moscato Howe, a statewide advocate, local community providers will start receiving their contract cut notifications on Tuesday, February 22. The notice will force many providers to freeze immediately new patient admissions, to issue patient discharge notices, and to begin to announce staff lay offs, totaling more than 5,000 private sector works statewide.

“The cuts begin on Tuesday and it will start triggering layoff notices and client discharges,” said Howe.

Coming on the heels of the governor’s successful effort to raise the state income tax 66%, Quinn’s budget cuts have some Democratic lawmakers seething.

“Very angry to get a call last night from the Secretary of Human Services to tell me that substance abuse, prevention and youth programs and possibly childcare will have to be eliminated NOW because of directions from the Governor’s Budget Office. This is just plain wrong,” State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) posted on his Facebook page on Saturday.

In addition to Harris, State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) appeared Sunday night on the Chicago WLS-890 radio program “The Tom Roeser Show” to blast Quinn’s decision, decrying the short-sighted fiscal impact of cutting treatment services that cost on average $4,425 per year versus prison that costs on average $21,911 per year.

“Ok boys and girls, let’s do some math : Why did Pat Quinn zero out substance abuse treatment which costs $4500 a year, and then add 900 jobs in prisons …,” Feigenholtz wrote on her Facebook page.

Feigenholtz and State Rep. Jim Watson (R-Jacksonville) will introduce an official House resolution on Tuesday calling on Quinn to halt the cuts. Other lawmakers from both parties are climbing on board to co-sponsor the resolution, according to sources.

Meanwhile, State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago), Chair of the Senate Human Services Committee, has scheduled a hearing on Thursday morning at 10:00 a.m at the James R. Thompson in Chicago to rake over the coals officials from the Department of Human Services regarding the cuts.

After drug treatment advocates backed Quinn’s call for an income tax increase to spare human services from the budget ax and lobbied lawmakers, they are now feeling burned by Quinn.

“Governor Quinn had pushed to increase the income tax to save Illinois human services,” said Howe. “The Governor’s pledge to protect the most vulnerable in Illinois has been a cruel hoax.”

In a single stroke, Quinn has managed simultaneously unite the GOP, Democrats and progressives over a budget issue. That takes some real skill.

In the meantime, Quinn may want to start “friending” lawmakers on Facebook.

About David Ormsby

David, a public relations consultant and blogger at The Huffington Post, is an ex-Press Secretary of the Illinois Democratic Party.


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