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Lawmakers' Attempt To Fix Budget Cuts Is Small Change

FLICKR User Jim Bowen

There's a hold-up over efforts to save programs dealing with autism and drug prevention from ending in Illinois. It seems like advocates should be celebrating.

After Gov. Bruce Rauner says he was forced to earlier this month suddenly pull $26 million worth of state grants, the Illinois Senate used the legislative version of searching under the couch cushions for change.

It may seem ridiculous to call $26 million "change," but in the scope of the state $32 billion budget, it's a small fraction. The plan withSenate Bill 274 is to gather the money from reserves in special state funds.

Accounts with plenty of dollars in them that are less used will be targeted. The money scrounged up could prevent layoffs and ensure the programs at risk will continue.

"We need to remember that we need to prioritize the needs of those individuals who cannot fend for themselves," said Sen. Donne Trotter, a Chicago Democrat. "We need to realize that some of these programs that we call social service are actually life giving services for individuals that need 'em."

While advocates for the programs say they're thankful, it may be false hope because the House isn't on board with the plan. Under a previous agreement with Rauner, lawmakers already swept other special funds.

House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie says she wants to know what the governor did with all of that.

"We didn't get good enough answers to our questions [Tuesday] in our budget oversight hearing about what's happened to the $900 million that we gave them. So I think we would want to get more chapter and verse before we jumped on the bandwagon in finding more resources," Currie says. "I think we just want some answers. Where did the money go? Surely it's not sitting in the bank, or under the governor's pillow?"

The governor's office says it's been clear from the onset: That money was never enough to fill the state's current budget hole.

Amanda Vinicky moved to Chicago Tonight on WTTW-TV PBS in 2017.
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