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Gov To Agencies: Prepare For Budget Cuts


State agencies are getting a warning from Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s budget office: Be prepared to make significant cuts next year.

Brian Mackey reports.

A memo orders agencies to include a scenario in which 6.5 percent of current year funding would go away. They’re to find the savings through “operational efficiencies.”

The document was issued under the names of Deputy Gov. Dan Hynes and Budget Director Alexis Sturm, who say the current-year budget is still balanced.

Nevertheless, “Illinois continues to face significant financial challenges, and we must continue to be wise fiscal stewards of the limited resources of state government,” Hynes and Sturm say in the memo.

Human service providers are concerned about the possibility of cuts.

Andrea Durbin is head of the Illinois Collaboration on Youth, an umbrella organization of groups that contract with the state to help Illinois’ most vulnerable children. She says some of her member groups have only recently “stopped the bleeding” from the disastrous budget stalemate — when many went two years without state funding.

“If you want to keep that metaphor, certainly some people didn’t make it. Some cases were terminal,” Durbin says. “But we have other that we were able to bring back from life support.”

She says state funding of human services has been declining since the turn of the 21st century.

She says the budget memo was not surprising, but left her “disheartened.”

“I understand the fiscal realities, but to be thinking about taking this backwards step when we’re still trying to get out of the danger zone is discouraging,” Durbin says. “And I hope the General Assembly and this administration are able to come together and find ways to avoid that.”

Beyond the 6.5 percent cut, the memo also directs agencies to examine lists of boards and commissions under their purview, with an eye toward culling their numbers by 10 percent.

It also demands “at least two significant efficiency and savings ideas for consideration in the fiscal year 2021 budget.”

The directive comes as Pritzker and his allies prepare to make a push for voters to approve the graduated income tax constitutional amendment at the November 2020 election.

If approved, it’s projected to bring in an additional $3.5 billion a year in tax collections. But that’s only after it’s fully implemented, which cannot begin until midway through the next budget year.

Copyright 2019 NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.