Social Service Advocates: Rauner Budget Cuts ‘Don’t Make Fiscal Sense’

CHICAGO (CBS) — People in wheelchairs, people with guide dogs, and others representing those who need social services packed an Illinois Senate committee hearing room on Monday to testify about the impact of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed budget cuts.

Ivelisha Woods, a 22-year-old mother of three, said she’s basically been homeless since she was 12. She said she’s dependent on services for homeless youth provided by Unity Parenting, so she can eventually get out on her own.

“They’re helping me with affordable housing. They’re helping me with jobs. Sometimes they help me with the kids,” she said.

Rauner has proposed cutting social services funding to the homeless, the autistic, the mentally ill, and others by $423 million.

“This is a difficult time, and a difficult budget. As a result, difficult decisions must be made,” Acting Human Services Director Greg Bassi said.

State Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, said she believes there will be cuts in social services, she just can’t predict by how much.

“It’s challenging to think what we’re actually going to have to be doing,” she said.

Heather O’Donnell represents Thresholds, a community mental health agency, and she said cutting services to the mentally ill would only tax the state financially in other ways. She saod there’d be more psychiatric hospitalizations, more homeless on the streets, and more mentally ill landing in prison.

“These kinds of cuts just don’t make fiscal sense, and they certainly aren’t compassionate or humane,” O’Donnell said.

State Sen. Karen McConnaughay (R-Saint Charles) said Rauner inherited a tough financial situation, and cuts of some kind will be needed.

“At the end of the day we all care about the people that we represent, and want to make sure that the people who need our help the most are the ones that we prioritize, so I’m optimistic. A difficult process, for sure; but I’m optimistic that we’re going to come together, and come up with some solutions,” she said.

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