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House Set To Vote On Social Services Budget; Governor Says He Won't Swallow Its "Poison Pill"

Amanda Vinicky

  An effort to get billions of dollars to social services agencies could be doomed, despite approval Tuesday by an Illinois House committee. The bipartisan standoff may again block money that would provide low-income people with shelter and food, help homeless veterans, and screen women for cervical cancer.

Just last week, in a rare display of cohesion, Republican Senators joined Democrats in voting to spend $5 billion dollars for those needs. It was, in a sense, like spending free cash: it all came from the feds.

House Democrats want to tack on another $1.56 billion in spending: some federal, but a third from state coffers. Gov. Bruce Rauner, and his fellow Republicans, like Rep. Dwight Kay of Glen Carbon say Illinois doesn't have the money: so they're withdrawing support.

"What I think today of this budget, or this process, is that it's tantamount to a Ponzi scheme," Kay said. GOP Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer of Jacksonville says Democrats are choosing to kill the whole deal, and encouraged them to drop the add-ons.

"We could make an impact today --- we could pass this out ... and we could have an impact on people's lives that we all say we care about. I mean don't sit up here and give lip service to all these different things," he said.

But Democratic Rep. Carol Ammons, of Urbana, says Republicans' opposition is "indefensible."

"You cannot hide unfortunately behind 'the governor's not going to like it.' He shouldn't like it because he doesn't like anything that is for poor people,” she said.

House Democrats say the additions cover 11 federal programs that were mistakenly left out of the original package; they also added some state money for programs they say are important, and time-sensitive, and which in cases will bring along a federal match Illinois could otherwise lose.

Democratic Representative Anna Moeller of Elgin says it's a reasonable, and minimal, request.

"I think we can all agree that these are areas of the budget that are not wasteful, that are essential to our residents and our constituents. I haven't heard anyone on the other side claim that these are unworthy programs to be funded," she said.

Though Democrats on a legislative committee passed the measure, they may be hard-pressed to achieve the same result before the entire House Wednesday. Illinois is in its second month without a budget.

Amanda Vinicky moved to Chicago Tonight on WTTW-TV PBS in 2017.
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