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Can Illinois 'Budget For Results' Without A Budget?

100 dollar bill about to be cut with scissors

The ongoing budget debacle that’s hobbled Illinois government was front and center Wednesday in Springfield.

The Budgeting for Results Commission was supposed to be hearing from the public about how state government can be more efficient and effective. Commission co-chairman Steve Schnorf asked people not to focus on budget shortfalls, saying there's nothing the commission can do about that. Despite that warning, the conversation was hugely affected by the 18-month fight that’s paralyzed state government.

Vickie Smith, director of the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, was among several people who told commissioners that the state government workforce has gotten so small, it’s actually making things much less efficient.

“I was at a meeting yesterday with people from the Department of Children and Family Services charged with protecting the most vulnerable in our state," Smith said. "And they are so devastated … that it is extremely difficult for them even to get qualified people to apply, let alone get hired."

Smith says the state office overseeing hundreds of grants for agencies she represents — grants worth tens of millions of dollars — has the equivalent of one-and-a-half employees.

Paul McCann, a vice president and treasurer at Eastern Illinois University, told commissioners that the school's nearly 400 layoffs have made it harder to comply with the increasing demands of state rules and regulations — including rules associated with Budgeting for Results.

“There’s more and more for us to do, and less and less people to do it," he said. He added that Eastern’s layoffs represent about 30 percent of the staff.

Brian Mackey covers state government for NPR Illinois. You can follow his reporting on Twitter and Facebook.

Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.
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