The list totaled $1.2 billion and included such areas as schools and
universities, state agencies, and Medicaid, the state-federal health
care program for the poor and disabled. Suburban Democrats hoped
their proposed spending reductions would gain some traction among
But most of the cuts didn't even make it to the
full House or Senate for consideration. In fact, the only proposed
cut to clear a House committee was a $200 million reduction to the
state's Medicaid program.
As chairwoman of the House Human Services Appropriations
Committee, state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, said she was
surprised by the negative reaction the proposed cuts received from
"I think it was an interesting exercise," Feigenholtz said,
"because it definitely showed the willingness and the lack of
willingness of what people are willing to do."
The proposals also included a 5 percent across-the-board cut to
state agency operations and a requirement that state retirees
contribute more to their health care costs. Many retirees pay no
health insurance premiums.
Although State Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Des Plaines, spearheaded
the spending reduction initiatives, she recognizes that cuts are
"I think the feeling of our group was that even though cuts are
hard, they're necessary," Nekritz said.
However, the state's social service providers are frustrated that
the only significant discussion of cuts has landed on Medicaid's
doorstep once again.
Jim Duffett, the executive director of the Champaign-based
Campaign for Better Health Care, said lawmakers are looking to make
cuts in the wrong place.
"Like every year, we hear a variety of different innuendoes by
some politicians that by doing this or doing that with Medicaid
we'll save the state $1 billion, $2 billion, $3 billion," Duffett
said. "It's, unfortunately, a bunch of hogwash."
Duffett said any potential savings from cuts would be lost in
extra costs from hospitals and emergency rooms as program
participants sought care. Many physicians do not accept Medicaid
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Feigenholtz noted that cuts to Medicaid were the most palatable
to lawmakers since the program is already in dire straits.
"And I believe that they're already $600 million in the red, so
the interesting fact is I had a $200 million cut that the money
isn't there anyway," Feigenholtz said. "It's just kind of removing
the approp. (appropriations) authority or bringing the line down so
that it was a clearer reflection of what there is to spend."
But Duffett said the real reason Medicaid is under the knife can
be found in the vulnerability of the population it serves.
"Those individuals on Medicaid are not registered to vote, and
those that do -- are registered --don't vote," Duffett said.
"They're not part of any type of organized entity that ends up
giving hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of political
PAC dollars to politicians."
The proposed cuts weren't implemented last week because of
technical problems in the language of the proposal, but both
Feigenholtz and Nekritz said they expect to continue working with
the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services to get
Medicaid costs under control. Medicaid makes up a large portion of
every state's budget.
The proposed Medicaid cuts, as well as the other spending
reductions, are likely to come up again when lawmakers reconvene
Currently, there is no definite schedule on when lawmakers will
return to the state Capitol.
Statehouse News; By JENNIFER WESSNER]