WE ARE ILLINOIS
Agencies slam Quinn on overdue state bills
By Dave McKinney - Chicago Sun-Times
Two leading groups fighting violence against women and youth rapped Gov. Quinn Thursday for launching a $50 million anti-violence initiative when Illinois has become the biggest deadbeat state in the country by one new survey.
"We are dismayed and disheartened by the governor's decision to spend $50 million on a new initiative at a time when the state owes millions of dollars to agencies and organizations that are providing critical services and prevention programming in countless communities across the state," said Polly Poskin, executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
Her organization, which distributes a mix of state and federal funding to 22 rape crisis centers across Illinois, has had its state funding cut 27 percent in the past two years and is owed more than $1.7 million because the state is five months behind in its bills. Because of the funding squeeze, six of those rape-crisis centers may not meet their payrolls by month's end, she said.
"We are confused by the ability to find dollars in our current budget crisis when our local agencies are still waiting to be paid for fiscal year 2010," said Vickie Smith, executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
The governor unveiled his "neighbor recovery initiative" Wednesday in Chicago, touting the $50 million, one-year spending program as a tool for "rebuilding Illinois' most vulnerable neighborhoods and protecting young people."
Quinn said the anti-violence program initially will benefit 18 neighborhoods on the city's West and South sides, and in Cicero and Maywood.
He is counting on those traditionally Democratic areas to turn out in force for him in his race against Republican Bill Brady, though an administration spokeswoman insisted no political motive was behind the anti-violence program.
When asked about the wisdom of launching an expensive new initiative when so many social-service agencies are underwater fiscally, Quinn pledged those organizations behind in their payments from the state will be made whole.
"It is not additional spending, but part of the appropriations passed by the Illinois General Assembly for state priorities. Investing in critical programs now -- like after school and job creation initiatives -- is an economically sound strategy to combat violence and lower long-term costs," Quinn spokeswoman Ashley Cross said.
"Gov. Quinn is committed to protecting Illinois' residents against the devastating effects of domestic violence and sexual assault," she added , citing legislation he signed increasing victims' rights and speeding up the State Police processing of evidence in sexual assault crimes.
Brady, meanwhile, took aim at Quinn for starting a new program when so many others are languishing.
"It seems like the governor has no clue to what the people we owe money to are dealing with back home," Brady said. "I don't think we've ever had less competency in the governor's office in my political career."
The criticism over Quinn's new initiative came the same day as the Donors Forum, a Chicago-based philanthropic organization, released a study showing 72 percent of Illinois non-profits reported late payments from the state. That was the worst record in the country.
SOURCE: Chicago Sun-Times
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