Access Living and the February 17, 2016 Budget Address

Yesterday, February 17, Access Living staff and advocates were in Springfield to call for an end to the Illinois Budget impasse. Access Living was joined by advocates from independent living centers across Illinois. “We wanted to hear that there would be an end to the budget impasse,” said Marca Bristo, President & CEO of Access Living, speaking about the governor’s budget address. For more than 30 years, independent living centers have given voice to people with disabilities, building a network of support designed to empower people with all types of disabilities to live independently in communities of their choice.

In his speech, the Governor stressed that he wanted to work on a budget solution, saying, “The people of Illinois are sick and tired of this. They want us to work together.”

Though the governor indicated he is ready to work with the legislature, there is still concern that gridlock will dominate this year’s legislative session. “We hope the Governor will take his own advice and really work with the legislature,” Bristo said about the prospect of a budget solution. “But, based upon last year, we are not confident that things will be different this year.”

There are 22 Centers for Independent Living across Illinois, each one serving a specific geographic area. Collectively, the centers provide services to thousands of people with disabilities. Amidst the budget impasse, in order to continue providing services, centers for independent living have been forced to reduce staff, reduce hiring, and borrow money. In the budget proposed by Governor Rauner, Independent Living Centers will be funded at a rate similar to that earmarked in FY 2016. Yet, if the impasse continues, centers will be forced to continue reducing services and some may close.

Funding for the Home Services Program, which supports people with disabilities living in their own homes, included a small increase, but not enough to cover what will be needed when Illinois implements new Department of Labor Overtime rules.

Also, the Governor’s proposed budget includes nearly a $200 million cut to the Community Care Program. The Community Care Program, similar to the Home Services Program, supports seniors living in their own homes instead of institutions. SEIU Healthcare called the proposed cut "terrible policy that will cause suffering for thousands of seniors."

The current impasse, and aspects of the FY 2017 proposal are indicators that the budget situation in Illinois is hurting poor people, seniors, and people with disabilities. It's also unraveling the overall infrastructure that supports people with disabilities and other marginalized groups living in the community.

Finally, though the current administration has stressed a commitment to community-based supports as opposed to institutional care, in the department briefings following Governor Rauner’s address, Secretary Dimas of the Department of Human Services stated that there will be no facility closures in FY 2017. Illinois continues to operate seven State Operated Developmental Centers, which cost thousands of dollars more per person than community-based support and warehouse people with disabilities in segregated settings.

Responding to the budget, Tony Paulauski, the Executive Director of the ARC of Illinois, said, “Illinois currently spends $429 million per year to operate seven state institutions that incarcerate 1,678 individuals with developmental disabilities . . . The Arc was extremely disappointed that the Secretary clearly stated in his comments that no state institutions would close this year.”

Below are links to responses to the Governor's Budget Proposal from a few other groups:

Thresholds Response to Governor Rauner Budget Address

Budget Response from the Arc of Illinois

Budget Statement from Responsible Budget Coalition

Response from SEIU Healthcare

Access Living supports a budget solution that generates revenue and that ensures the Illinois State Budget addresses its liabilities, prevents damaging cuts to community based services, and allows community-based services to grow according to need and demand.