A day ahead of a vote in the House to strip the power of Gov. Bruce Rauner to control elegibility standards for the state's Child Care Assistance Program, the governor makes a compromise, restoring eligibility level to 162 percent of poverty.
| Chuck Sweeny is senior editor of the Rockford Register Star and rrstar.com. RRSTAR.COM FILE PHOTO
By Chuck Sweeny
Posted Nov. 9, 2015 at 5:39 PM
Updated at 11:35 PMThe state has had no budget since July 1, and Gov. Bruce Rauner has had to make serious cuts to state services not covered by court orders that bar him from cutting their budgets.No cuts are popular, but one chop Rauner made prompted a noisy, sustained and, as of today, partially successful lobbying effort to restore the governor's cuts to the popular Child Care Assistance Program. An emergency rule issued by Rauner reduced eligibility so much that 90 percent of parents trying to sign-up after July 1 found themselves ineligible — even those who earn the minimum wage at a full-time job!The child care assistance program began in the welfare reform era of the 1990s. Championed by Republicans and Democrats alike, the idea was to move people from welfare to work by making sure they could afford decent, affordable day care for their young children. It has worked well and still enjoys broad-based political support. The U.S. provides 60 percent of the program's nearly $1 billion yearly cost; the state contributes a 40 percent match. Before the cuts, the program served 86,400 Illinois families whose 160,700 children benefit from subsidies through the state’s Child Care Assistance Program to more than 29,000 child care providers, according to The State Journal-Register of Springfield.Today, Rauner walked part way back. His communications advisor, Lance Trover, released a statement saying, “As a result of bipartisan discussions with legislators concerning the future of the Child Care Assistance Program, the Rauner administration today plans to amend the emergency rule it filed at the beginning of the fiscal year. Under the amended rule, income eligibility will rise to 162 percent of the federal poverty level while current co-pays will remain intact. Other eligibility and restrictions will also be lifted pending further review and legislative consultation. Additionally, the governor’s office will establish a bipartisan, bicameral task force aimed at ensuring the long-term stability of the program."Rauner acted one day before a House vote scheduled Tuesday on Senate Bill 570, which would restore all Rauner's cuts to state-assisted day care and remove his power to change eligibility rules in the future. That power would shift to the Legislature, which is controlled by Democrats.Rep. Litesa Wallace, D-Rockford, is a co-sponsor of SB570, which she predicted "will pass in the House with enough votes (71) to sustain a veto."Wallace cautioned that "there is still no bill I've seen that appropriates the money we need" to continue funding at the pre-cut level.However, because of Rauner's peace offering, a concurrence vote in the Senate will be delayed until at least Nov. 17, said Senate sponsor Toi Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields.