Thursday, March 7, 2013

Voices 4 Illinois Children Responds to Gov Quinn' FY 2014 Budget

Note: Gov Quinn's Budget Director, Jerry Stermer, was for years the Executive Director of Voices For Illinois Children

Voices for Illinois Children's Reponse to Gov Quinn's FY 2014 Budget, March 6, 2013

Governor Quinn’s newly released budget proposal demonstrates that Illinois’ fiscal crisis is far from over and that children, families, and communities continue to pay the price for a history of unwise fiscal decisions made by our elected officials. Nearly every area of the budget that impacts children has been subject to deep cuts over the past few years.

Of particular concern, the Governor has proposed cutting $309 million from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) budget, including $150 million from General State Aid. Such a massive cut would further devastate school districts that are already under severe fiscal stress. If enacted, this cut would mean that ISBE funding would be $1.1 billion below the FY 2009 level — further undermining our children’s future and taking our state in the wrong direction.

The Governor’s budget also includes flat funding for the Early Childhood Block Grant, rather than the $40 million increase proposed by ISBE. As a result of deep budget cuts over the past four years, more than 20,000 fewer children have access to state-funded preschool this year than in FY 2009.

All Illinois residents — including the youngest among us — are being harmed by the rapid increases in state pension costs, which will consume about one-fourth of state revenue in the coming fiscal year. Addressing the pension funding crisis is an urgent matter. At the same time, even without pension changes, there is still room for better choices about spending priorities. Governor Quinn and the General Assembly should make choices that address the urgent issues facing children and families.

Beyond this coming fiscal year, the state faces fiscal disaster if current income tax rates are cut as scheduled on January 1, 2015. If income tax rates are rolled back, state revenues in FY 2015 will plunge by more than $2 billion, and the revenue loss in FY 2016 will be $4.7 billion. Meanwhile, pension costs are set to increase both years. The result would be draconian cuts to nearly all other areas of the budget, including funding for K-12 education, preschool, mental health services, and child care — or a dramatic increase in the backlog of unpaid bills.

Our elected officials must finally enact a credible plan to address the pension funding crisis and not allow current income tax rates to expire at the end of next year. Without doing both, our state will not be able to dig out of its deep budget hole, give all kids the opportunities they deserve, and create a brighter future for all Illinoisans.

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