Editorial: More pain coming from state budget crisis

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So far, Toni Preckwinkle says, Cook County is carrying the State of Illinois.

But come July 1 the free ride is over, says the county board president. Basic services that the state has failed to fund, such as domestic abuse prevention efforts, will be eliminated and people will be laid off. The state already owes the county $66.1 million in back payments for providing such services, she says, and the red ink can’t flow forever.

July is a long way off in Illinois politics, where nothing ever gets done until something finally gets done. And Preckwinkle, who visited with editorial boards on Monday, acknowledges the political timing of her complaint. She and Commissioner John Daley, chairman of the Finance Committee, hope to give Gov. Bruce Rauner and his Republican allies a kick in the pants just before the March primary elections.

But back bills are back bills — you can count them.

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It is undeniable that Illinois is piling up tens of millions of dollars in unpaid bills, stiffing not just Cook County but local governments across the state and dozens of agencies that care for our neediest citizens. Real people — children, the disabled, college students, the poor and the powerless — are feeling the hurt.

Reboot Illinois, a watchdog group, estimates that Illinois’ unpaid bill backlog by the end of the fiscal year, June 30, 2016, will be $9.03 billion.

At that point, Preckwinkle told the Sun-Times Editorial Board, the county will “stop doing the programs and we’ll lay off the people.”

Does anybody want the county to stop squeezing child support payments out of deadbeat parents? That could happen, Preckwinkle said. The state is on the hook for $18.6 in reimbursements to the county for child support enforcement but hasn’t paid a dime.

Sadder yet, about 70 percent of that money would be remitted to the state by the federal government. The state is losing the federal money because it hasn’t kicked in its share, 30 percent.

Or consider Adult Redeploy, a $1.9 million collection of services designed to keep non-violent ex-offenders from committing more crimes. The state is supposed to pick up the tab but has not. Ironically, Gov. Rauner vowed in his 2015 State of the State address to increase Adult Redeploy funding, not to effectively gut the program.

The county board’s Finance Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday to call attention to the state’s failure to pay its bills for services provided by the county. Should you attend, we expected you’ll see some people who are hurting — poor kids, folks in wheelchairs and others.

We’re pretty sure you won’t see Rauner or, for that matter, House Speaker Mike Madigan, who are not hurting.

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