Court order boosts funding plea as lawmakers build budget

April 25, 2021

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois lawmakers are in the final weeks of their spring session, when they slice the fiscal pie amid a cacophony of cries from state-funded service providers. Few can lean on the kind of spending-boost argument that this year, advocates of the intellectually and developmentally disabled have: A federal judge said so.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker is responding. The Democrat has proposed an eye-popping $122 million increase to meet the dictates of a 2011 consent decree requiring more community-based services, such as neighborhood group homes of eight residents or fewer and more job opportunities for people with developmental disabilities. The case is known as Ligas v. Hamos.

The problem is, after the judge in the case admonished the state in 2017 for falling short, a painstaking study by Pritzker’s own Department of Human Services determined that meeting the court’s goals would cost $329 million this year alone, largely to hike salaries, which at current levels fuel turnover and create uncertainty for a system serving 28,000 while maintaining a waiting list of 18,000.

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