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Local News

Analysis: Next year's budget cuts right around the corner

Rauner administration to restore $26 million in grant cuts

An unexpected windfall of income tax revenue means Illinois will reinstate the $26 million in social service and public health grants cut last month by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Rauner announced the cuts as part of an effort to plug this year's $1.6 billion budget hole. But while the pending restoration may ease anxiety for affected family and service providers in the short term, a new analysis released Thursday by the Responsible Budget Coalition serves as a reminder spending cuts proposed in next year's budget are just around the corner.

The analysis breaks down proposed cuts in Will County, Joliet and other area communities, showing how people would suffer from the steep reductions in services for autism, child care, community care, home services, public safety and economic development.

The analysis shows Rauner's spending plan for next fiscal year slashes Will County and Joliet's share of the state income tax fund by nearly $12.5 million.

Will County Board Member Jackie Traynere, D-Bolingbrook, said cuts to local governments' share of the state income tax could slow progress on the county's plans for a new courthouse and a badly needed new sheriff's facility on Laraway Road.

“I think that people are either ignoring what Rauner is doing or hoping it doesn't happen and living in a fool's paradise,” she said.

Will County can't afford a new $200 million courthouse on its own, Traynere said, pointing to a recent request that the city of Joliet pitch in $50 million as an incentive to keep the courthouse downtown.

"Where's Joliet going to get that money from if those cuts go through?" Traynere said. "They don't have the money to give us right now."

The Joliet City Council is expected to vote Tuesday on a resolution opposing cuts in the municipal share of the income tax.

Mayor Tom Giarrante this week was at a meeting in Chicago with other mayors opposed to Rauner's cut in city revenues.

"We handled our problems," he said. "Now he wants to balance the state budget on our backs."

Joliet City Manager Jim Hock said he awaits specific legislation from the governor before planning adjustments in the city budget. Until then, he said, "there's nothing to react to."

Hock noted that while Rauner proposed the cut, he told municipal officials when meeting with the Will County Governmental League in March that "If you support my agenda it won't have to be cut that much.' So it's all in the negotiation stage."

Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said in an emailed statement the governor's cuts were proposed in the face of the state's $6 billion deficit.

"For years, Illinois governors signed budgets taxpayers could not afford and allow[ed] too many taxpayer dollars to get trapped inside state government because of bad management and sweetheart deals for political insiders," she wrote in the email. "Difficult decisions have to be made to put Illinois back on a fiscally responsible path."

Trinity Services in New Lenox has been "forced to turn away more than 20 families seeking autism diagnostic services" because of this year's grant suspension, said Neal Waltmire, with the Responsible Budget Coalition.

This year's funding is being restored, but under next year's budget proposal, all of the state's grant funding for the Autism Program would be eliminated, resulting in a $175,000 cut to the center, according to the analysis.

Next year's cuts would result in the program closing down, Waltmire said.

Carl Indovina, director of autism programs at Trinity, was unavailable for comment Thursday.

The Associated Press and Herald-News reporter Bob Okon contributed to this report.

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