House OKs budget fix that covers day care, court reporters

  • State lawmakers got a budget fix moving today that would help programs like one that helps low-income families pay for day care.

    State lawmakers got a budget fix moving today that would help programs like one that helps low-income families pay for day care. Associated Press File Photo

 
 
Updated 3/25/2015 5:39 AM

The Illinois House has approved a plan to rescue a program to help low-income families pay for day care and cover the salaries of court reporters throughout the suburbs.

But the funding for those programs, which have run out of money or are in danger of falling short, will come from 2.25 percent budget cuts across state government, including a reduction in the money local schools get from the state. Gov. Bruce Rauner would also be allowed to transfer money from other accounts throughout government, like a large one that pays for road construction in Illinois.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The share of state income taxes that local towns receive has been spared after loud protests by suburban mayors. Funding for Chicago-area mass transit also wasn't touched.

"Court reporters need to be paid," said state Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, a Chicago Democrat.

The Illinois House approved the spending plan by a 72-45 vote, sending it to the Illinois Senate for review later this week.

Illinois Chamber of Commerce President Todd Maisch said taking money out of the state's roads account will be a problem in the future.

"Any transfer to other spending purposes highlights one of the reasons we have significant infrastructure needs and exacerbates an already bleak future for Illinois' transportation system," he said.

Chief judges in the suburbs have already started furloughing court reporters and planning for layoffs starting Monday. A day care center in Aurora had to shut down because of the shortfall in the subsidy program.

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Robin Nordin, owner of Kiddie Junction in Des Plaines, said she lost 12 families from her day care once she had to start charging full price. Starting next week, staff members will have to start taking one unpaid day per week off.

Despite the prospect of a fix, the shortfall has caused payment delays that will continue to affect Nordin's and other day care centers, so her cutbacks won't be reversed immediately.

"I just don't trust them now," Nordin said.

Richard Goldberg, a top aide to Rauner, indicated support for the deal, saying it had to be done without new taxes or borrowing.

"This is our opportunity to come together for the good of our state," Goldberg said.

Under the plan, Rauner gets $97 million he can spread around to Illinois schools that are "at the brink of financial disaster," Currie said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Though schools would lose money under the plan, the ongoing state budget crisis meant it was unclear schools would get that money by June 30, anyway. An official with Elgin Area District U-46 estimated the district would see a $2.3 million cut under the plan.

The budget battle over this spring's shortfalls is a preview of what's to come for Illinois this spring and summer.

Rauner has proposed big cuts in the spending plan starting July 1, and the rest of lawmakers' spring session at the Capitol will largely focus on how to proceed.

Lawmakers have less money to work with after the 2011 Illinois income tax hike dropped at the beginning of the year, and a plan to save money via cutting teachers' and state workers' pension benefits faces an uncertain future in court.

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