Human Services Partial Budget Salve Passes Initial Hurdle

May 11, 2016

Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, speaks with reporters including Dave Dahl.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Lawmakers' latest bid to mitigate the damage of the budget impasse centers on helping social services.

Court orders have kept money flowing to certain social services, but many others have had to scale back or close after waiting more than ten months for the state to pay their bills. These autism, drug-treatment, and housing programs would get about $700 million under a measure advanced on a bipartisan basis by an Illinois House committee.

"We're listening to people who are saying if there's a way to help us, please give us some help," said the measure's sponsor, Rep. Greg Harris, a Chicago Democrat.

He says it would get human service agencies about half of what they're owed, for this year.

Lawmakers are supposed to pass a budget for next year, fiscal year 2017, by the end of this month.

"If we're looking at FY17, we're looking at this problem starting all over again, if we don't find new revenue sources," Harris. "So I think all of us are looking at that. That we know that we're going to need to find a way not only to pay for our FY17, but we have a backlog of bills now in the comptroller's office of billions of billions of dollars It's time to find a final solution and fix all of these problems."

Talks continue as legislators seek a complete resolution to Illinois' nearly year-long budget stalemate.

Although Republicans gave initial approval to the stopgap human services bill, Gov. Bruce Rauner's office signaled concern that this plan is evidence Democrats are backing away from broader negotiations.

It follows a similar formula used to get funding to public universities and community colleges: Much of the money comes from a fund that's been sitting on a balance, rather than from the state's main checking account. Additionally, Democrats point out, it is not contingent on passage of the governor's pro-business, union-weakening agenda that's at the heart of the partisan standoff.