Illinois’s spring legislative session adjourned on May 31 with the passage of a “maintenance” state budget for FY15. Funding for housing and homeless services was maintained and even saw modest increases for the next fiscal year, but no legislation was passed to provide the revenue to support these priorities long-term.
The dire fiscal situation of our state has been further exacerbated by the General Assembly’s failure to pass legislation to extend the 5% income tax rate or to create a ballot initiative that would pave the way for a more fair, graduated income tax structure. Legislators still need to hear from their constituents that their action is needed to provide revenue.
CCH brought more than 300 homeless/recently homeless leaders and human service providers to Springfield this session to advocate funding for services and for the revenue needed to support it. Our signature yellow CCH T-shirts were a constant presence at the state capitol reminding legislators of the needs in their districts and the importance of housing and homeless services.
In addition to email action alerts to activate our members, CCH held its annual legislative breakfast in March, and for the first time, held a homeless student art fair in the capitol rotunda. Our advocacy campaign this year highlighted homeless families, children and youth with mugs and pins reading “54,892” – reflecting the record number of homeless students identified by the Illinois State Board of Education last school year (2012-13).
Human Services Budget:
Emergency (Shelter) and Transitional Housing program – level-funded at $9.4 million.
Homeless Prevention grants to households – level-funded at $4 million. (In the budget plan that was based on maintaining a 5% income tax rate, this program would have been funded at $6 million.)
Homeless Youth programs – funded at $5.6 million, a $1 million increase from FY14.
Supportive Housing Services – funded at $30.5 million, a $2.7 million increase from FY14.
K-12th Education Budget:
Homeless Education – Our campaign to restore funding for services to homeless students was unsuccessful, but a line item was inserted for a potential appropriation at a later date. (In the budget based on maintaining the 5% income tax, funding was to have been partially restored to $1.5 million, from $3 million last funded in FY09.)
As a member of the statewide Responsible Budget Coalition, CCH has long advocated for responsible and fair revenue sources to fund critical human services, such as closing corporate tax loopholes and maintaining adequate income tax rates. We will continue to work with our partners to push for legislative decisions that lead our state out of the constant fiscal crisis that threatens the social safety net that protects our most vulnerable community members.
CCH also joined A Better Illinois, a campaign for a fair state income tax structure so that those households with lower incomes would pay a lower tax rate and those with the highest incomes would pay a higher rate. This campaign was unsuccessful in this spring’s session, but will continue to be a priority in future sessions.
As of January 1, 2015, Illinois’s income tax rate is scheduled to drop from the current 5% to 3.75%. This will create a revenue loss of about $2 billion that threatens human services and school funding. Although housing and homeless service funding was maintained, other critical human services experienced cuts in the FY15 “maintenance” budget that just passed. Due to costs that rise each year, even a budget maintaining current funding levels often results in reductions in service or staffing.
Further, a maintenance budget was only achieved through one-time solutions, such as fund sweeps and delaying bill payments. This sets up the state of Illinois for further catastrophe later if a long-term revenue solution is not achieved. CCH and our partners will continue to advocate for passage of legislation that would make the 5% income tax rate permanent. This is the only way to protect a critical safety net and prevention services needed by families facing the crisis of homelessness.
During the summer and fall break, CCH will strongly encourage services providers, community groups and constituents to contact their legislators to express the importance of making the 5% tax rate permanent. In-district meetings and legislator visits to provider sites are particularly effective ways to communicate the needs in a legislator’s district and exemplify the need for revenue. For guidance on in-district meetings or legislator site visits, please contact CCH’s statewide organizer, Jim Picchetti.