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Governor's Budget Projections Mean Huge Cuts for Kids

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While Illinoisians rang in the New Year with family and friends, a little-noticed new forecast released by the Governor's Office of Management and Budget (GOMB) on the first of the year leaves no room for celebration.

The report shows massive revenue losses are in store for Illinois over the next three years. Writing as an advocate for Illinois' children, one thing is very clear: Unless the General Assembly maintains stable revenue beyond the end of 2014, billions of dollars in cuts to public services will be inevitable, and our kids will suffer as a result.

According to GOMB projections, revenue losses resulting from changes to income tax rates will lead to budget shortfalls of $1.9 billion in fiscal year 2015 (which begins in July 2014), $4.1 billion in FY 2016, and $4.6 billion in FY 2017. Closing gaps of this magnitude would require draconian cuts to programs and services that are essential for the well-being of children, families and communities across Illinois.

The state's investments in early childhood education, K-12 education, and higher education -- which have already eroded over the past five years -- would be significantly undermined. Programs such as child care assistance, after school programs, child protection services, and a wide range of community-based services for families, people with disabilities, and seniors would be in serious jeopardy.

In addition to deep spending cuts, the huge revenue loss means progress in reducing the state's backlog of unpaid bills would come to a halt -- and almost certainly be reversed.

Further, another downgrade of the state's credit rating is likely, making it more costly for the state to finance needed transportation improvements, school construction, and economic development projects.

Greater fiscal instability and uncertainty will be a blow to the state's economy just as it is starting to show signs of recovery from the recession. Putting Illinois on the right track requires stable and sustainable revenue. Policymakers should prevent the harm from devastating cuts and further economic set-backs by maintaining stable revenue.

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Emily is the Policy Advocacy Director at Voices for Illinois Children. Contact her at emiller@voices4kids.org. Follow her on Twitter @EJMill.