Suburban service agencies brace for effects of Rauner cuts

  • A sign language interpreter, left, works next to Bruce Rauner, governor of Illinois, as he delivers a budget address in the House Chamber of the State Capitol building in Springfield. Rauner proposed spending cuts across state programs from Medicaid to universities to stanch the fiscal bleeding in Illinois, the nation's worst-rated state.

    A sign language interpreter, left, works next to Bruce Rauner, governor of Illinois, as he delivers a budget address in the House Chamber of the State Capitol building in Springfield. Rauner proposed spending cuts across state programs from Medicaid to universities to stanch the fiscal bleeding in Illinois, the nation's worst-rated state. Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

 
 
Updated 2/18/2015 10:10 PM

Suburban organizations that help care for people with disabilities and try to aid others struggling with addiction are bracing for cuts Gov. Bruce Rauner proposed Wednesday.

Lambs Farm President and CEO Dianne Yaconetti says her agency, based in Libertyville, could be hit hard under Rauner's proposal, because the proposed budget would cut back money for groups that care for more than 250 disabled adults.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Because of Lambs Farm, this population is living longer, and the notion they would make any cuts to any funding would be devastating," Yaconetti said.

Rauner proposed cuts to human services programs across the state as part of an attempt to get the state out from under what he says is a $6.2 billion budget deficit.

"Making these tough choices is a small price to pay for the promise of a better tomorrow for our children and our grandchildren," Rauner said.

His office says it tried to spare programs for the developmentally disabled from the deepest cuts.

The local groups provide services to people in the suburbs, and the state reimburses them for the work.

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Suburban agencies have complained about Illinois for years as state government has often been late in paying its bills on time. Still, Rauner's plan to try to get the budget under control isn't sitting well with Democrats.

"I don't want to see us prioritizing potholes over people," state Sen. Dan Kotowski, a Park Ridge Democrat, said.

Kotowski's party controls the General Assembly, and lawmakers are likely to do battle with Rauner over the budget in the coming months. Meanwhile, suburban agencies will have to watch from afar.

Lisle's Ray Graham Association serves 2,000 Illinoisans with intellectual and developmental disabilities. President and CEO Kim Zoeller says she is saddened to see the governor's proposal.

"I support a need for change," Zoeller said. "But creating change on the backs of the most vulnerable citizens is not the direction we should be headed in."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Around 350 individuals served by Ray Graham receive respite care. Respite programs can offer developmentally disabled children care occasionally while their parents do things like shop for groceries or attend another child's sporting event.

Zoeller says Wednesday's proposed budget could completely cut state funding for respite programs.

"It is the safety net that exists in our system. It's the little bit that keeps families from a crisis," Zoeller said.

Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger of Lincolnshire, who volunteered with a human services agency in the suburbs in previous years, said the budget doesn't spare anyone. But she said she hopes Rauner's proposed fixes can create some long-term results.

"I think that we all have to now step up and make a lot of changes because our state for the past decade has spent more money than we have, and it has to stop," she said.

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