Eyes On Rauner As Popular Daycare Program's Out Of Cash

Feb 2, 2015

Credit childcarecenter.us

Gov. Bruce Rauner has consistently said he's waiting to give details on his plans for Illinois' finances until his budget address, on February 18th. But decisions by previous lawmakers may force him to make closely-watched decisions sooner.

Illinois has a program that helps low-income parents pay for day-care. But -- because the previous General Assembly cut funding for it by millions from the current state budget - state money for has run out.

That's alarming for advocates like Emily Miller, who is with Voices for Illinois Children.

"When families don't have access to programs like the Child Care Assistance Program, they're really put in a position where they have to decide between going to work to put food on the table ... and staying home and having to rely potentially on public benefits," she said.

Or worse. She says some may feel they need to leave their kids at home, unsupervised.

There's no sign it's coming to that right away; daycare providers Illinois contracts with may stretch their payments while they wait for lawmakers to deal with the situation.

But that'd only work temporarily and this budget is supposed to last through June.

Uncertainty is high, with a new governor.

When asked about it late last week, Rauner blamed his predecessor for creating the high-pressure situation. "Now we've got a problem, it's been dumped in our laps," he said.

When pressed by a reporter to explain what he'll do to fix it, he responded: "Working closely, working closely with the General Assembly, we are going to make sure that we do the reallocations necessary to make sure the essential services of government stay open and functioning."

Rauner says Quinn directed state agencies to spend as if they could expect to get more money for programs like this one. It is not uncommon for legislators to pass supplemental appropriations during their annual November/December veto sessions to deal with situations such as these; but that didn't happen this time -- perhaps in part because Rauner had asked legislators to not take that sort of substantial action.

Miller says this shouldn't have come as a surprise to Rauner; groups like hers have been clamoring about it for months.

Rauner has put a freeze on what he has broadly categorized as "non-essential" state spending.

Some lawmakers say there's room to move around money in the existing budget; another lawmaker promises to introduce legislation to come up with cash to continue the program.

Beyond the regular questions about how Rauner -- who has hinted that cuts are ahead and has knocked politicians of the past for overspending -- will handle this, there is additional scrutiny because his wife, Diana Rauner, heads Ounce of Prevention, which advocates for children from birth to age five living in poverty.