Springfield in dysfunction over Illinois' spending - FOX 32 News Chicago

Springfield in dysfunction over Illinois' spending

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Lawmakers in Springfield worked late into the evening on a new state budget that will once again be covered in red ink.

At a fundraiser for one of Chicago's most-respected providers of services for the mentally ill, there was pleasant surprise tonight. The Illinois House had just voted to restore $221 million in spending it cut two years ago, including removing a limit on medications for the mentally ill that advocates called counter-productive.

“Thresholds actually saw a number of people who were hospitalized because they couldn't get their medications. You know, a medication that costs $40 as opposed to a hospitalization that costs about $4,000. You do the math,” said Vice President of Theshold Heather O’Donnell.

As worthy as some of the proposed new spending may be, budget watchdogs such as Laurence Msall had a grim warning. Having decided not to extend Illinois' "temporary" income tax increase, lawmakers are courting disaster with a budget that spends hundreds of millions of dollars more than is in the state treasury.

“This is something that has gotten the State of Illinois into a lot of trouble in the past. This is putting more gas on a burning financial crisis at the State of Illinois,” said Msall, Civic Federation of Chicago president.

Msall said Springfield is reviving a series of old budget gimmicks: borrowing another $650 million on top of $5.4 billion in current, unpaid bills; raising revenue estimates by about $200 million; ignoring $62 million in back pay due union employees, plus tens of millions of dollars more for negotiated pay raises due next year.

For social service agencies already facing payment delays, things are likely to get worse.

“The worst part of this is that the core service providers, the people who provide services to the developmentally disabled or the elderly, are not going to be paid,” added Msall.

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