Coins Under The Couch Cushions And False Hope

Apr 22, 2015

Daniel Gorog (right), a 23-year-old man with autism stands new to his father, Dan Gorog, who on Tuesday thanked a Senate committee for voting to restore money to autism programs that he credits with helping his son. But it may be false hope.

There's a hold-up over efforts to programs dealing with autism, drug prevention, and more from ending. It seems like advocates should be celebrating.

After Gov. Bruce Rauner says he was forced to earlier this month suddenly pull $26 million worth of state grants, the Illinois Senate used the legislative version of searching under the couch cushions for change.

It may seem ridiculous to call $26 million "change," but in the scope of the state $32 billion budget, it's only a small fraction. The plan with Senate Bill 274 is to gather the money from reserves in special state funds.

(Imagine the state's a mansion. Legislators say they'll get money from under plump cushions on rarely-used dining room sofas ... instead of searching for coins from the family room couch that everybody sits on. In other words, accounts with plenty of dollars in them and that are less used will be targeted).

The money scrounged up could prevent layoffs and ensure the programs at risk continue.

"We need to remember that we need to prioritize the needs of those individuals who cannot fend for themselves. We need to realize that some of these programs that we call social service are actually life giving services for individuals that need 'em," Sen. Donne Trotter, a Chicago Democrat, says.

While advocates for the programs say they're thankful it may be false hope because the House isn't on board with the plan. Under a previous agreement with Rauner, lawmakers already swept other sofas/special-funds.

House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie says she wants to know what the governor did with all of that.

"We didn't get good enough answers to our questions yesterday (Tuesday) in our budget oversight hearing about what's happened to the $900 million that we gave them. So I think we would want to get more chapter and verse before we jumped on the bandwagon in finding more resources," Currie says. "I think we just want some answers. Where did the money go? Surely it's not sitting in the bank, or under the governor's pillow?"

The governor's office says it's been clear from the onset: that money was never enough to fill the state's current budget hole.