Chicagoland

New Illinois budget covers services to the poor

By Chicago Catholic
July 13, 2017

On July 6, Illinois lawmakers ended a record-setting, two-year budget impasse by overriding Gov. Bruce Rauner’s vetoes of a spending plan and an income tax increase.
The resolution comes at a cost to both individuals and businesses. Retroactive to July 1, the personal income tax rate rises from 3.75 percent to 4.95 percent, while the corporate rate jumps from 5.25 percent to 7 percent.

The move is expected to bring in a much-needed $5 billion annually, as organizations and businesses that provide services to the state — including Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago — are waiting for their bills to be paid. During the past two years, the state’s backlog of unpaid bills reached $14.7 billion.

The spending fund and revenue package covers the Community Care program, through which Catholic Charities receives money to operate adult day care centers and provide case management and home health aides. Catholic Charities serves more than 25,000 seniors in Cook and Lake counties under this program and says 80 percent of those people were at risk of going into a nursing home within six months if the services were cut.

Catholic Charities in the archdiocese is the largest social-service provider in Illinois, caring for 1 million people annually. While the agency raises about $25 million privately each year, a large portion of its annual $200 million budget comes from government contracts.

The funding program is a relief to the agency. However, many smaller social-service providers were forced to cut staff or close during the two years the state went without a budget. This heavily damaged the safety net for the poor, according to Catholic Charities officials. It remains to be see if these programs will be revived now that there is a budget.
Left hanging is funding for public K-12 education, as the budget package calls for money to be distributed via an “evidence-based” funding formula. Lawmakers approved such a funding method in Senate Bill 1.

The bill has yet to be sent to Rauner, who has said he will veto it since it provides money for Chicago public schools and teacher pensions in what he calls a “bailout.”

The Catholic Conference of Illinois, the lobbying arm for the state’s bishops, is seeking an amendment to SB 1 or new legislation that would create a tax-credit scholarship program for low- and middle-income students to attend Catholic and other private schools.

The budget package also allows the state to pay off $8 billion of its bills by authorizing up to $6 billion in general obligation bonds, with the remaining money coming from inter-fund borrowing and fund sweeps. It also calls for cuts of 10 percent and 5 percent to higher education and state agencies, respectively, while funneling an extra $350 million to K-12 education.

Topics:

  • catholic charities
  • state budget

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