GOVERNOR’S OWN NUMBERS DAUNTING
According to projections the Governor’s administration released in early January, Illinois faces a deficit of more than $500 million in the current fiscal year, not including $2 billion in Fiscal Year 2012 Medicaid obligations that will be deferred into the next fiscal year.
For the coming fiscal year, the Governor’s office promised a tightly balanced budget that would spend $33.7 billion, based on $34.1 billion in projected revenues. Ideally, that budget would keep spending slightly under revenues, and allow for a modest surplus that could be used to reduce the state’s backlog of bills. But, achieving that goal will be far from easy and I hope the Governor has the will to carry through with his plans.
Under the outline presented by the budget office, virtually all state spending must remain flat for the next three years. In order to achieve a balanced budget there could be no increase in education, public safety, welfare and healthcare spending. That’s a tall order, given that current Medicaid projections show that Illinois would need to spend about $3 billion more next year just to retain the program’s current level of services and prevent the existing backlog of bills from growing.
The people deserve more information about how Governor Quinn plans to address the unsustainable costs associated with Illinois’ Medicaid and public pension systems. Both programs are growing at an alarming rate, elbowing out other essential public services.
PROPOSED MEDICAID CUTS ENOUGH?
Governor Quinn has indicated that he will propose to cut Medicaid by $2 billion and hold Medicaid spending to current levels; however, that would still not be enough to rein in the projected growth of the program.
Unless serious action is taken to address Medicaid obligations, it’s estimated that within five years the annual cost of the program could reach $12 billion and the bill backlog could jump to $21 billion.
An important first step is to implement bipartisan Medicaid reforms signed into law in 2011. It has been more than a year since the reforms were approved by lawmakers, and none of the reforms have been implemented.
The Administration appears to finally be taking steps to put the bipartisan reforms into place. In time, these reforms would save the state billions of dollars.
OTHER ISSUES TO DISCUSS
The public would also welcome a lot more information from the Governor on several other issues, including his proposed closure of the Jacksonville Developmental Center and the Tinley Park Mental Health Center, ending the scandal-plagued Legislative Scholarship program, and his plans for attracting and retaining employers and jobs.