1/21/2013 - TOPINKA: ADDRESS BUDGET SHORTFALLS NOW

Critical services jeopardized by continued inaction

CHICAGO – Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka on Monday warned that Illinois is on track to run out of appropriations for services that its residents depend on, and urged state leaders to act before the situation becomes a crisis.

The state’s Chief Fiscal Officer estimated that more than $1 billion in supplemental funding is needed to prevent interruption of payments for services utilized by seniors, children and special needs residents. Topinka recommended that state agencies create reserve funds from financially-sound programs to offset the cost.

“We know today that many of our programs and agencies will run out of authorized funding months before the end of the fiscal year,” Topinka said. “We need to end the denial and address those budget shortfalls before they jeopardize critical services that our residents depend on.”

Topinka noted that last year more than 40,000 child care providers were blindsided with news that they would not receive state funding for three months due to an insufficient appropriation in the Fiscal Year 2012 budget. Similarly, day programs, child group homes and organizations serving the developmentally disabled were informed that their checks would be delayed due to underfunding in the state budget.

The state is on track to repeat history, Topinka cautioned. Programs and agencies at risk include:

  • Community Care and Home Services Programs that assist seniors and people with disabilities in home-based settings. The Department of Aging funding is under-appropriated by an estimated $200 million.
  • Department of Children and Family Services, which has requested an additional $25 million to avoid layoffs that would include service workers.
  • Workers Compensation, which has requested an additional $82 million.
  • Health Insurance Reserve Fund, which has exhausted its appropriation and requires $900 million.

With the state already saddled with an estimated bill backlog of more than $9 billion, Topinka stressed that any supplemental spending legislation should include a revenue source. Specifically, she proposed that lawmakers require financially-sound agencies to reserve funds to turn back to the state at the end of the fiscal year.

Whatever path they choose, state leaders will find greater success dealing with funding challenges sooner, rather than later, Topinka said.

“The state needs to be frank about funding levels and stop playing numbers games with the budget,” Topinka said. “Businesses and organizations rely on the dollars they’ve been promised to make ends meet – it’s unconscionable to blindside them with news that in fact, there is no check in the mail.”

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