To the Illinois Veteran Community:
We often use this newsletter to spread the word on IDVA programs and events. Today, I'd like to use it to spread the word on the funding picture for IDVA--and on what you can do to help.
As you may have heard, Governor Quinn stood by the veteran community again during this budget cycle, proposing increased funding to provide for higher nursing care staffing at our Veterans' Homes. We are far from "in the clear," however. Even while the Governor and I continue to advocate for this IDVA budget in Springfield, I want to highlight the importance of the State's budget crisis to all of us--and to enlist your support in addressing the issue.
The State of Illinois faces a massive fiscal crisis, in large part due to ballooning pension and Medicaid costs. The growing costs of these two programs now make up 39% of state general revenue spending, squeezing out core state functions and programs. This year alone, pension and Medicaid growth necessitated $425 million in cuts in the Governor's FY13 budget.
While the Governor has protected veterans' services from these cuts, no agency will be spared from the several billion dollars in cuts that would be necessary next year--and in subsequent years--if the State fails to achieve fundamental reform to pension and Medicaid this year.
In this difficult situation, pension and Medicaid reform have become a veterans' issue. After all, it is our veterans' homes, our veteran service offices, our mental health services and programs--and those of other state agencies and innumerable social service organizations--that are on the line next year should the State not act to stem the exponential growth in pension & Medicaid costs.
Outside Springfield, a sense of the urgency of this issue is spreading--as this Chicago Tribune editorial highlights. We need your help to ensure that your local legislators, who have just returned home from a two-week legislative break, share this sense of urgency.
I would ask that you contact your local legislators, letting them know that, as an individual veteran or as a veteran organization, you see as the primary budget-related priority, ahead even of a veteran-specific funding issue, the need for the State to achieve fundamental reform of the pension and Medicaid systems.
By mid- to late-April, the bipartisan working groups assembled on these issues will have developed proposals to start the broader conversation in Springfield. With your help we can remind everyone in Springfield of the urgency of taking on these issues, of engaging in the tough conversation and finding a bi-partisan solution, during this current legislative session.
I would also ask that you help spread the word on the urgency of this atypical veterans' issue by any means you see fit, including perhaps in your organization's internal and external communications. It is important that all of us in the veteran community become energized on this issue.
As always, thanks to all of you--for your service, and for serving those who served.
Erica J. Borggren
Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs