An email from State Rep. Mike Tryon:
Yesterday Governor Quinn presented his annual budget address, and while I was impressed with the importance he placed on vital issues like reforming Medicaid and Pensions, I was really disappointed to hear that once again Governor Quinn has provided very few details for implementation of a plan.
Rather than speak of specifics for how Medicaid and Pension costs can be reigned in, he made reference to committees and working groups that will explore efficiencies in those areas of the budget.
In January of 2011, the General Assembly took steps to address the escalating costs of Illinois’ Medicaid programs, and bipartisan provisions were approved as Public Act 96-1501. This new law would have led to the savings of hundreds of millions of dollars by reducing fraud and by providing improved coordination of care.
The law included common sense provisions to ensure eligibility, such as requiring one month’s worth of pay stubs, and proof of Illinois residency.
Quinn’s administration has refused to implement those reforms, claiming the provisions are prohibited under the federal Affordable Care Act. Ordinary protocol is to file a waiver a request, a step that many other states have taken to reign in Medicare costs and reduce fraud.
So before passing new Medicaid reforms I would first suggest that Governor Quinn and his administration fully implement those laws passed by the General Assembly last year.
An analysis of the budget speech shows that Governor Quinn wants to increase spending next year by 2.1%, mainly in the areas of funding for early childhood programs and scholarships for college-bound students.
He has also shown support of an initiative to shift some of the state’s pension liability onto the backs of local school districts.
I fear this shift would result in hefty tax increases at local levels and possibly large layoffs of teachers. It appears to be an attempt to shift the burden without addressing the root problem of pension costs.
In his address, Governor Quinn also announced his intention to close 14 major state facilities, including the supermax prison in Tamms, a maximum security prison in Dwight and six halfway houses for inmates nearing the end of their incarcerations. Two juvenile detention centers were also included on his list of closures, as were mental health centers in Tinley Park and Rockford, and developmental disability facilities in Jacksonville and Centrailia. While I favor consolidation where efficiencies of operation can be obtained, I would like to see the research that led the governor to believe that the 14 facilities should be closed. I would also like to see the transitional plans that ensure that vulnerable segments of our population will continue to receive the services they require.
Overall, I left the speech with more questions than answers. Illinois will never get its finances in order until we start spending less money than we take in. Governor Quinn needs to show some leadership on this issue, and as budget discussions move through both chambers of the General Assembly, I will be expecting to see numbers that show Illinois is going to live within its means.
I will continue to update you on issues as they move through the legislative process, and as always, if my staff or I can assist you in any way, please do not hesitate to call my Crystal Lake office at 815-459-6453.
Michael W. Tryon
State Representative, District 64