“Today, our rendezvous with reality has arrived.”
—Illinois Governor Pat Quinn during yesterday’s FY2013 budget address.
As Illinois’ fiscal crisis continues to ravage the state—Illinois has $8 billion in unpaid bills—the fiscal year 2013 (FY13) budget proposed yesterday by Gov. Pat Quinn delivered a healthy dose of reality. While the budget included a few bright spots, it also proposed significant cuts to state-funded programs that provide valuable services to struggling Illinoisans. If passed, the budget will have mixed results for Illinois’ two million-plus Latinos.
Early Childhood Education
Advocates are heartened by the Governor’s proposed $20 million restoration to the early childhood education block grant, which would bring total funding for these vital programs to just over $345 million. While funding levels still lag below the FY09 total of $380 million, the restoration is a step in the right direction. One-in-four Illinois children under are age five are Latino; in a decade’s time, they will comprise a significant portion of our state workforce. Access to quality preschool and early learning programs for these children is critical to building strong cognitive foundations, increasing academic outcomes, and ensuring Illinois’ future economic viability.
Gov. Quinn proposed a $3 million funding restoration to the state’s bilingual education budget. Illinois is home to the nation’s fifth-largest population of English-language learners (ELLs). These and additional resources are necessary to provide quality bilingual services to ELLs beginning in preschool. We applaud the governor’s commitment to restore vital bilingual programs across the state.
Department of Human Services
While the overall agency budget is set to increase, program adjustments and a new mix of spending actually net out to a funding reduction of $2.2 million in General Revenue Fund (GRF) spending. Cuts to DHS funding are especially damaging to the Latino community, as about half of all grants awarded by the State of Illinois to Latino-serving organizations come from this agency.
DHS funding to Latino organizations has decreased in recent years (19 percent between FY09 and FY11) even as the Latino population has increased (33 percent over the last decade), according to Latino Policy Forum analysis. And many Latino-serving social service organizations are reeling from the effects of late payments from the state, struggling to keep their doors open as funding flows are irregular or stalled for months. Even level funding represents a cut as these same organizations are already stretching their budgets to serve increasing numbers of families.
The Governor’s $16.6 million proposed reduction to this program is only part of the story. In response to contractual obligations, the actual proposal may include programatic cuts to the tune of $85 million by July 1. Under the proposed budget, required co-pays will increase and families will have to earn even less to be eligible to participate in the program. Thousands of Latino families will potentially be ineligible for services, and those whose incomes meet new thresholds will have to pay more. Families will be faced with difficult decisions between continuing to work outside of the home and finding the resources for their children’s care.
At the same time, Governor Quinn is proposing a $50 tax credit to all families with children, regardless of income. Community advocates are frustrated by incongruencies between the proposals: It does not make sense to make low-income, working moms pay more for childcare while providing a child tax credit to all families—especially higher income families.
Other alarming proposed cuts include:
-A $2.2 million decrease in funding for home-visiting programs, including Parents Too Soon and Healthy Families;
-A $4.7 million decrease in emergency and transitional housing; and
-A proposal that will adversely impact Latinos’ eligibility for healthcare programs such as All Kids.
The Latino Policy Forum will continue to monitor developments with the state budget as it moves through the State Legislature in the coming months. For additional information, please contact Senior Policy Analyst Martin Torres.