State

$38.5B spending plan sent to Gov. Rauner

School administrators, social service agencies react to spending bill

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State Rep. Bob Pritchard, R-Hinckley, talks about the new state school-funding law Oct. 5 at the DeKalb County Community Outreach building in DeKalb.[]

SPRINGFIELD – It appears the state of Illinois has a complete, timely budget for the first time under Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Social service agency officials who feel overlooked remain concerned.

“We’re still trying to hire qualified employees,” said Cynthia Worsley, executive director of Fox Valley Older Adult Services in Sandwich. “It’s difficult to make it, but we’ll keep fighting.”

A $38.5 billion state spending plan made it out of both legislative chambers Thursday and awaits action from Rauner, who said he intends to sign it into law.

Should the budget be signed by the governor by June 30, this legislation will be the first budget to be passed before the start of the new fiscal year since Rauner took office.

The state Senate approved the budget, House Bill 109, Wednesday night in a 56-2 vote with Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, voting in favor of the bill and Sen. Tim Bivins, R-Dixon, being one of the two dissenting votes.

The state House, meanwhile, passed it by a 97-18 vote. Rep. BOB Pritchard, R-Hinckley, said negotiations were bipartisan all the way through, but when you’re dealing with spending that’s been much higher and the goal is to trim everything back to balance things out, some areas are going to be strained.

“This adjustment of limiting spending is part of the pain of having balanced budgets that all units of government and business have to deal with,” Pritchard said. “I’m encouraged that we’re living within our means and not overspending what our revenue is going to be. By identifying goals, people can feel the state is going in the right direction.”

Although there are no new taxes in the budget, it would not be balanced without the income tax hike included in last year’s budget law.

Social services

Caregivers who primarily work with the developmentally disabled will experience a 50-cent hourly wage increase under the budget, but other social service providers continue to wait for their rates to go up.

Worsley said her organization is pleased with the General Assembly for passing a budget, but the threat of noncompetitive compensation still persists.

According to a news release from FVOAS, the Legislature has not raised the reimbursement rate for adult day services, which are regulated by the state, in more than a decade.

This has led to about 20 percent of adult day services in Illinois closing, the release said. Services in Sandwich have continued through donor support.

Two bills introduced this legislative session, Senate Bill 3601 and House Bill 4871, tried to increase the rates for adult day services from $9.02 an hour to $15.02 an hour and increase rates for each-way transportation services from $8.30 to $10.30 an hour. Neither of these bills have been assigned to a committee.

K-12 education

An additional $350 million is being allocated for K-12 education as part of the the state’s new school funding model passed last year.

Sycamore School District 427 Superintendent Kathy Countryman said she is excited about the bill’s passage and is interested to go over the details of the budget during the next few days.

Although Rauner introduced a phase-in proposal during his budget address for school districts to start covering their own Teachers’ Retirement System obligations, a move that would add millions of dollars in expenditures to some districts, no such provision was included in the budget bill.

“While we understand there are these obligations, it would be difficult to fit [pension obligations] into what we’re working on,” Countryman said.

A $50 million increase in early childhood programs was included in the budget.

Higher education

After years of slashed budgets, public universities and community colleges will experience a 2 percent state funding increase. A $25 million tuition assistance program also will be created by the state as a means to keep Illinois students at Illinois colleges.

“The Illinois State Legislature’s approval of [a fiscal 2019] budget is a very positive action that provides higher education in Illinois with many of the resources necessary to continue the critical role universities play in education, research, artistry and economic development,” acting Northern Illinois University President Lisa Freeman said in a statement. “Our hope is that Gov. Rauner will sign the budget immediately, so that each university may help Illinois and its residents move forward.”