Things are getting tense among members of the General Assembly as Illinois continues its historic budget impasse.
Democrats and Republicans are hurling attacks at opposition party leaders, hoping to assign blame for the state’s lack of a budget for 22 months. Republicans continue to target Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, while Democrats, like state Sen. Jacqueline Collins of Chicago, often slam Gov. Bruce Rauner.
In a Feb. 24 newsletter from state Sen. Collins, she zeroes in on several of Rauner’s claims as she attempts to debunk them. One of her counterclaims said: "Fact: Governor Rauner has called every year for eliminating funding for afterschool programs for at-risk youth, homeless prevention services and programs that help autistic children."
We wondered: Did Rauner actually call for the elimination of these programs each year he’s been in office?
Budget proposals and vetoed bills
We contacted Kenneth Lowe, a media and outreach specialist for the Illinois Senate Democratic Caucus, to see where the state senator found her sources.
Lowe provided us with five instances from 2015 to 2017 in which the governor announced he intended to freeze or cut homeless prevention, autism or after-school programs for at-risk youth. We looked into each instance to verify that it actually happened and to see whether it accurately depicts Collins’ claim.
• Collins’ claim: On Feb. 18, 2015 Rauner announced his Fiscal Year 2016 budget in which he proposed freezing grant funding for autism and homeless prevention programs at DHS. He also called for the elimination of the After School Matters program at the Illinois State Board of Education.
• Our finding: Rauner’s FY16 budget proposal shows the governor did look to freeze funding for homeless and autism programs, as well as cut After School Matters.
• Collins’ claim: Rauner, again, introduced a budget without funding the above-mentioned programs.
• Our finding: Rauner’s proposed FY18 budget shows this claim is correct.
By looking at Rauner’s budget proposals, vetoed bills and past news stories we found Rauner has called for the elimination and freezing of funding for autism, homelessness and after school programs each year he has been in office. However, Rauner has not been successful in his attempts to eliminate or freeze this funding, a point Collins’ email does not make.
'It’s not pretty’
Chris Mooney, director of the Institute of Government & Public Affairs at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, said claims like the ones in Collins’ email are common these days. Illinois has been without a budget for almost two years, and Mooney said it’s starting to grate on people.
"People inside and outside the legislative process are having their nerves frayed," Mooney said. "There’s a lot of tension, especially in the statehouse because they can’t get their jobs done. That’s frustrating for anybody."
Mooney said this feeling is probably amplified after the 12-bill budget package known as the "Grand Bargain" stalled.
"It was the one real attempt the (state) Senate had and it was shot down," Mooney said. "It offered hope and those hopes were dashed. It’s like we’re starting back at square one."
In an email newsletter, state Sen. Jacqueline Collins accused Gov. Bruce Rauner of calling for the elimination of "funding for afterschool programs for at-risk youth, homeless prevention services and programs that help autistic children" each year he's been in office.
A Democratic staffer pointed to five instances where Rauner proposed cuts or freezes to these three programs. We verified these instances by looking at Rauner’s current and former budget proposals, a vetoed bill and news stories.
Rauner has proposed budgets that would eliminate funding in the areas Collins cites. But his 2015 veto of a bill that contained autism funding was in the context of rejecting 19 budget bills on the grounds that the entire package was unbalanced. His veto message did not specifically mention eliminating autism funding. Rather, he said he was vetoing several bills because he wanted structural reforms as part of a balanced budget which majority Democrats did not send him.
Collins’ statement is accurate, but needs clarification and additional information.
We rate Collins’ claim Mostly True.