Chapter Update

Thursday, March 1

March 2012 - State Legislative Update

Phil Milsk, NASW Illinois Governmental Relations Consultant

More cuts in Medicaid and human services looming for 2013.

The governor gave a budget message on February 22, 2012, that provided very little detail as to how he plans to balance the state's budget for FY2013. He prominently mention the "big two": pension reform and Medicaid cuts. On a positive side, he wants to spend more money on early childhood education. The governor proposed closing more state facilities including the Tinley Park and Singer Mental Health Centers, the Murray Developmental Center in Centraila, and the Tamms "Super Max" Prison in Alexander County.  

Following his address, the state's human services agencies briefed a packed Howlett Building Auditorium on specific cuts. In the case of the Department of Healthcare and Human Services, the discussion and written materials laid out a series of potential options for reducing Medicaid spending with no specific recommendations. Options include (1) Reducing eligibility for the All Kids Program to 200% of the poverty level, which would take about 19,000 children off the program; (2) Eliminate the Illinois Cares Rx Program; (3) Take all undocumented children off of All Kids;  (4) Lower income eligibility threshold for the Family Care Program;  (5) Eliminate medical care for torture victims; (6) Eliminate the renal dialysis program, serving 270 clients; (6) Raise the DON score for supported living facilities and nursing facilities; (7) Eliminate adult optional services such as hospice, pediatric palliative care, adult dental, adult chiropractic care, adult OT and PT, podiatric care, adult speech therapy, (8) Eliminating or limiting eligibility for the waiver for medically fragile/technology dependent children, etc.. Obviously, none of these are good options.

As for programs operated by the Department of Human Services, proposed cuts include reducing the lifetime limit for TANF from 60 months to 36 months; reducing employability development services; cutting Teach Reach by 20%; raising parent co-payments for child care; eliminating mental health non-Medicaid grants; reducing mental health capacity grants; making it harder to qualify for the Home Services Program; limiting Home Services to Medicaid eligible individuals prospectively;  and much more.

Our work is cut out for us to preserve these important programs and services. The time is NOW to become active. There will be cuts, but our voices will contribute to the dialogue about what the State's funding priorities should be next year. 

There are thousands of bills pending right now, and it really is not a good time to write a summary of pending legislation. However, I want to mention a couple of bills and resolutions.

First, HJR-CA 12 (Jakobsson) would put on the ballot a constitutional amendment that would allow Illinois to have a graduated state income tax rate. The chapter is supporting this measure which, if adopted and then voted upon favorably by the electorate, would give us an opportunity to revamp our tax code, something that is long overdue.

SB 3773 (Sandoval) would subject nonprofit organizations that receive state funding from any source and of any kind to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). This bill, if enacted, would subject nonprofit agencies to a FOIA request from anyone. It would require huge amounts of staff time and legal services to deal with these requests. The bill is scheduled for the Senate Executive Committee next week. We oppose.

HB 5290 (Cassidy) would amend the School Code provisions regarding bullying prevention to require the Illinois State Board of Education to develop a template bullying prevention policy for school districts to use in developiong their own policies. The bill requires that certain basic elements of a policy (e.g., having a complaint process, identifying who the contact person in the district is, collecting basic data and reporting it to the state board, posting the policy on the district's website) by part of every district's policies. The bill was held in the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee this week, but is expected to be heard again next week with an amendment that addresses concerns of school management groups. The NASW Illinois Chapter supports Rep. Cassidy's bill.

HB 5363 (Gabel) would transfer programs now in the Department of Human Services to the Department of Public Health. There will be an amendment to specify that certain programs such as youth services will stay at DHS. The bill will be heard in the House Human Services Committee next week. The chapter is neutral on this bill, but will continue to watch it.

Posted on 03/01/12 at 12:36 PM

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