My Suburban Life

How many people must suffer before the state does its job?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Western suburbs — The ripple effects of Illinois’ financial crisis are hitting some people like a tsunami.

Being owed about $1.8 million by the state, Seguin Services in Cicero had to raise revenue to keep its doors open. The organization, which provides services to people with developmental disabilities, had already used $2 million of its $2.5 million line of credit.

So, Seguin officials used their buildings at 31st Street and Central Avenue as collateral for a loan. If the state goofs up again on its payments, Seguin could lose its prime assets.

Seguin is just the tip of this iceberg. Between 40 and 50 percent of the Kane County Health Department’s budget comes from Illinois, but the state owes the agency $1.7 million.

The Kane County Board voted last month to “restructure” the department, reducing its budget by 40 percent. This restructuring took the form of massive staff cuts, with 62 of the agency’s 120 full-time employees being laid off. This will tax the resources of other agencies now forced to pick up the slack.

We haven’t even discussed the hundreds of thousands of dollars owed to local school districts by the state. The $13 billion deficit in Illinois’ budget is pushing all these entities to the brink of desperation.

There is a legitimate argument to be made about whether private groups and other government agencies should be so dependent on the state for money.

Private-sector organizations should plan on not getting as much money from the state as they have in the past. And local governments should either increase taxes directly from residents to maintain services or substantially cut their departments to balance their budgets.

That being said, Illinois must keep its word for the financial commitments it has made. But legislators will probably wait until after the upcoming election to raise taxes so they won’t hurt their campaigns. This shows they care more about keeping their jobs than doing them.

Raising taxes would be disastrous as most people don’t have any more money to give. The General Assembly must prioritize its spending commitments and make cuts to the rest of the budget.

Hard decisions have to be made if we are to overcome this dilemma. Otherwise, we’ll find ourselves in the same position next year.