Even in the absence of a state budget—more than nine months into the fiscal year—many state responsibilities are funded today.
They’re funded because a statute requires continuing spending, even without current legislative action. Money for local governments from the state income tax falls into this category. Some dollars are the subject of court orders. Funding for the Medicaid program and funding for state worker salaries falls into this. A few, but very few, are funded in the more usual way—dollars appropriated for specific purposes by the General Assembly, then signed into law by the Governor. This category includes spending for public grammar and high schools.
But some important state services have been left on the cutting room floor. There is neither a requirement, not is there any opportunity, for the state to help needy college students pay their tuition bills. There is neither a requirement, nor is there any opportunity, to provide services to rape victims. The same applies to mental health and substance abuse programs, community colleges and state universities, many services for low-income seniors, children with autism and homeless youth.
Lutheran Social Services has laid off hundreds of employees, and Catholic Charities can’t be far behind. Many small social service agencies have already, absent state support, closed up shop altogether. Without a budget, the state has slammed the door shut in the face of the people whose needs these agencies serve.
I offered legislation this week in Springfield to give a leg up to these critical programs. The measure was not a global budget fix, and it did not guarantee funding for any specific program or service. But it provided each of them a chance at funding.
Without passage of my bill, the Comptroller has no authority to spend one penny on substance abuse or mental health programs. No authority to spend one penny on colleges and universities. No authority to strengthen the fraying links in the state’s social service safety net.
My measure passed the House, and the Senate has concurred. But the Governor threatens a veto.
Nothing in this bill requires his administration to spend a single dollar. It does, however, give the Comptroller the same authority she currently has over many other programs to pay some or all of the bills for these critical services.
I encourage the Governor to reconsider when the bill reaches his desk. I encourage him to extend a helping hand to people in need and sign Senate Bill 2046.