Notes from the Field...

May-June 2012

Spring Legislative Wrap-Up

The General Assembly left Springfield on May 31 after passing Medicaid reform and a $33.7 billion FY '13 budget but failing to address the state's pension crisis. Each of those three big-ticket items - Medicaid, the state budget and pensions - impacts our work in our core issue areas. Changes to Medicaid will reduce health coverage to thousands of Illinoisans and budget cuts to the Department of Human Services affects the ability of providers across the state to serve their communities. Until legislators find a solution to the state's sky-rocketing pension costs, there will be continued pressure on state agency budgets.

This legislative wrap-up will summarize what happened with Medicaid, the state budget and pensions. It also will highlight bills related to our issue areas of Education, Income, Health and Sector Strengthening that United Way of Illinois supported, monitored or opposed.

Medicaid Cuts Balanced With New Revenue

Both houses of the General Assembly agreed on $1.6 billion in cuts to Medicaid and a $1-per-pack increase in the state's cigarette tax to address Medicaid's $2.7 billion budget deficit.

The cuts come from reducing eligibility, tightening screening to ensure only eligible Illinoisans are enrolled and eliminating programs such as Illinois Cares Rx, a discount drug program for low-income seniors and people with disabilities.

By increasing taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products, legislators prevented further cuts to Medicaid. The tax is expected to bring in $700 million in revenue while advancing public health efforts to reduce smoking. Fees from hospitals will bring in another $50 million in revenue, which will help the state access another $50 million in federal funds.

A Bigger State Budget than Last Year but Still Spending Cuts

It took months of negotiations, hearings and spending bills with last-minute amendments for legislators to settle on a $33.7 billion general fund budget for FY '13, which begins in July. The budget is $500 million higher than the FY '12 budget of $33.2 billion. Much of the increase, though, goes to the increasing cost of state pensions. Discretionary spending is down $700 million from $17.1 billion in FY '12 to $16.4 in FY '13.

The budget sets aside $6.5 billion for education and $5 billion for health and human services. The Human Services budget alone is $200 million less in FY '13 than in FY '12. State agency budgets represent a mixed bag: Some programs were spared while others were cut. Those spared include:

Those cut include:

Efforts to Reform State Pensions Fall Short

Legislators left Springfield without addressing the state's $83 billion unfunded pension liabilities. Pension reform is critical if the state is to tackle its fiscal imbalances and end the continued squeeze on state agency spending.

The General Assembly ran out of time on pensions after House members divided over a bill that would have shifted the costs of teacher pension to local governments, which members on both side of the aisle argued would result in higher property taxes.

Gov. Quinn is expected to call legislators back to Springfield this summer to approve pension reform after first hashing out the details with leaders in both houses.

Update on Bills We Watched this Session

Here's what happened with bills we SUPPORTED this session:

Human Services Commission Bill Passes

SB 278 passed both houses of the General Assembly. The bill codifies Illinois Human Services Commission, which extends the Commission's life and allows it to continue its systemic review of human services programs. The Commission will review all state human services programs and make recommendations for achieving a system with efficient and effective delivery of high-quality human services.

United Way of Illinois actively advocated for SB 278 during our annual Lobby Day in April, encouraging legislators to vote for the bill. It passed the House and Senate with substantial bi-partisan majorities and now awaits the Governor's signature to become law.

Bill to Study High School Graduation Passes

SB 3259 passed both houses of the General Assembly and awaits Gov. Quinn's signature to become law. The billcreates the Commission for High School Graduation Achievement and Success to study the issue of high school graduation in Illinois. The legislationaims to increase high school graduation rates and ultimately improve the state's workforce. A final report by the Commission is due by November 1, 2012.

Physical Education Task Force Bill Passes

SB 3374 passed both houses of the General Assembly and awaits Gov. Quinn's signature to become law. The bill creates the Enhance Physical Education Task Force to promote and implement enhanced physical education programs that can be integrated with a broader wellness strategy and health curriculum in elementary and secondary schools in Illinois. Task force activities include:

The task force will make recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly no later than August 31, 2013.

Child Daycare Licensing Bill Passes

SB 3601 passed both houses of the General Assembly and awaits Gov. Quinn's signature to become law. The bill requires the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to report to the General Assembly on its progress toward meeting child daycare licensing performance measures and goals.

DCFS will work through the Governor's appointed Early Learning Council on collecting data and documenting improvements on daycare licensing. A public portal will be created to allow the public to look up serious licensing violations.

Resolution on Obesity and Cancer Policies Adopted in House

House members voted unanimously to adopt HR 783, expressing their support of polices:

State Vouchers Payment Bill on Hold

HB 3985 passed the House in March but the Senate did not vote on it before adjournment. The bill establishes a timeline and procedure for state agencies to pay contracted vendors. It stipulates that within 25 business days of receiving a vendor's invoice, state agencies must either submit a voucher to the Comptroller for payment or return the invoice for errors to be corrected. After receiving an error-free voucher, the Comptroller has 5 business days to approve or deny it.

United Way of Illinois will push for the Senate to pass HB 3985 during the next session.

Here's what happened with bills we OPPOSED this session:

United Way opposed two bills this session, HB 3940 and SB 3773. Both bills raised issues concerning transparency at nonprofit organizations. Current laws and regulations at the state and federal level requiring reports to the Illinois Secretary of State, the Illinois Attorney General and the Internal Revenue Service already address these issues.

As a result, both bills would be redundant and result in burdensome time and effort by organizations already straining to maintain service delivery. Representatives from United Way, Donor's Forum, Jewish Federation and Illinois Partners for Human Service will meet with the legislative sponsors to develop an alternative means to achieve their goals this summer.

Here's what happened with a bill we MONITORED this session:

Voluntary Payroll Deductions Bill Passes

HB 5480 passed both houses and awaits Gov. Quinn's signature to become law. The bill reduces the number of signatures that must be collected on behalf of an organization from at least 4,000 to at least 500 or more employees or state annuitantsfor that organization to qualify to receive payments through payroll deductions under the Voluntary Payroll Deductions Act of 1983. It also authorizes that the signatures can be submitted electronically or in writing.