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In his annual State of the State Address, Gov. Bruce Rauner discussed the accomplishments of the past year, goals for the year ahead and how lawmakers must work together. Unfortunately, we’ve heard this before. Illinois’s most vulnerable residents can’t afford another year of empty promises and battles between the governor and the General Assembly, while those in need continue to feel the negative effects of the state’s financial crisis. Passing a positive budget that supports people living with and vulnerable to HIV and other chronic illnesses is more important now than ever.
From unfunded education, testing and treatment initiatives in Cook County neighborhoods to downstate Jefferson County laying off vital HIV prevention staff, every corner of the state has become victim to the governor’s inability to compromise with the General Assembly.
Though the speech offered very little new information, Rauner did go on record as supporting efforts in the Senate to find a comprehensive “Grand Bargain” that addresses the state’s budget crisis and other structural issues, such as worker’s compensation reform, increases to the minimum wage, and tax reform and increases. Though he stopped short of endorsing the plan, he implored the senators to keep working to find compromises.
Where is the compromise? A common thread throughout the governor’s statement focused on how Democrats and Republicans must come together and value what’s important to Illinoisans. One place to start is the state budget, as the stopgap spending plan put in place in June 2016 has expired and our state is in the exact same place we were before. What’s worse, we now have the added uncertainty surrounding the new Trump administration and concerted efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and limit Medicaid.
Among the many successes of the ACA is the expansion of Medicaid, which has been extraordinarily beneficial to the state’s HIV community. The AIDS Foundation of Chicago has estimated that more than 12,000 Illinoisans living with HIV gained high-quality, more affordable health care coverage through the ACA’s Medicaid expansion or in the insurance marketplace. Those 12,000 individuals comprise nearly 32% of the approximately 37,788 people living with HIV in Illinois — that’s one in three people living with HIV in our state.
Concerned Illinoisans must make their voices heard. Gov. Rauner must know how important vital services like Medicaid are, not only to those living with and vulnerable to HIV, but to alarmed taxpayers as well. The governor’s and General Assembly’s lack of action will only continue to hurt our state’s financial and human wellbeing.
AFC looks forward to seeing the governor’s constitutionally-mandated proposal for a balanced budget on Feb. 15 during the governor’s budget address and calls on the governor to preserve essential services that Illinoisans in most need depend on, including those living with HIV. A balanced budget that generates revenue to support the essential services and programs that Illinoisans demand is long overdue.
To see more on how the ongoing budget impasse has affected the HIV sector and HIV services in Illinois, as well as read about the causes of the impasse and proposals for ending it, please click here to read AFC’s Budget Impasse Policy Brief.
The lifelines supporting Illinois’ vulnerable communities are under attack at both the state and federal levels. Illinoisans in need don’t need another year of delay. They need leadership focused on saving lives.