Medicaid growth gobbles up tax money

Medicaid growth gobbles up tax money

By Chad Hays

Welcome to the land of make believe — Springfield. A place where spending more money than in any year in history is presented by the governor as a spending cut.

A charade of the highest order is now commencing that goes something like this: Tell every K-12 school district, institutions of higher learning, public-safety officials, and those who repair and build our roads and bridges, and our social service agencies that if we do not have a significant increase in revenue (a series of tax increases), the sky will fall.

Left out of the scenario, of course, is that in the current fiscal year, we are spending more money in the state of Illinois than in any year on record. In 2010, the general revenue budget in our state was $27 billion; the governor's proposed budget this year is $38 billion (a 29 percent increase over fiscal year 2010).

The worst kept secret in Springfield is that the deal is cut and the misdirection is in full bloom.

The truth: Education, roads and bridges, public safety, our veterans et al. have been traded in as a priority in favor of a social welfare agenda that includes a massive expansion of the eligibility threshold of Medicaid (public aid) in our state. Follow the money. The math is indisputable, and it makes the Chicago crowd in Springfield very nervous to have it under scrutiny by the light of day.

When you have all of the votes, pass the largest tax increase in history, control all spending and still hold hostage the services described above in the name of even more cash — you own it. Period. Calling those in charge fiscally irresponsible is being kind.

The doomsday scenario is a necessity for the Cook County crew as they need to gin up hysteria and the notion that the apocalypse is imminent. Why? Because they have to play out the folly of the death march to somehow rationalize passing yet again a series of tax increases.

Giving these folks more money is like loosening your belt buckle to control obesity.

Guard your wallet. Closely. Remember the largest tax increase in Illinois history was sold to you as a temporary fix to pay down a huge backlog of bills. Fast forward to today. Over $31 billion collected in new taxes, and the backlog of bills is not appreciably paid down. Your local school district has received 11 percent LESS in state aid payments in the past two years and 30 percent of its transportation money didn't arrive at all.

Higher-education funding decreased, roads and bridges are visibly crumbling; the list goes on and on.

Sometimes when you travel to the land of Oz on a regular basis, it is healthy to run the numbers past the real world to ensure that the rules of simple arithmetic are still in place.

So I visited a local elementary school and presented this problem to a second-grade class: If we spent $27 billion from the general revenue fund in 2010, and $30 billion in 2011, and $36 billion in 2014, and plan to spend $38 billion in 2015, are we increasing spending? To a student, the 7-year-olds confirmed that $38 billion is significantly more than the $27 billion of four years ago.

I have to side with the kids on this one. Spinning it any other way doesn't pass the second-grader smell test.

It has been said, "Don't bounce a $5 check. The service charge is the same; write a big one." The same is true in state government. If you are going to go to the trouble of this kind of untruth and absurd premise for a tax increase, go ahead and bounce a big check. A whopper of this magnitude deserves no less.

This is theft by the light of day. At least when the burglar robs my home, he has the decency of wearing a mask and saying "stick 'em up."

A decade ago, spending on K-12 education was higher than the budget on Illinois public aid. Today, welfare spending is double what we send to your local school district.

Bear in mind that public aid reimbursement for your local hospitals, doctors and nursing homes has been stagnant for years. We have payment rates that rank 50th, 48th, and 48th in the nation respectively. Our spending has been on an unprecedented explosion of eligibility at the expense of everything else in the budget.

The massive expansion of Medicaid actually started under Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Three years ago Gov. Pat Quinn indicated that our Medicaid/public aid spending was unsustainable and the Legislature passed a series of reforms commonly called the Smart Act.

The Smart Act reforms remain largely unimplemented; the third-party company hired to weed out those who do not live in our state and fail to meet income thresholds has been fired. This, despite 250,000 participants being found to be ineligible for services in the early stages of the third-party company's investigation.

Today, nearly one in four Illinoisans participate in the Illinois Medicaid/public aid program. The very actions of the Chicago crowd indicate that there is no serious interest in implementing reforms that lead to long-term sustainability. This puts those who need help the most at the greatest risk.

Additionally, the Illinois General Assembly once again not only expanded our Medicaid system again in conjunction with Obamacare, but locked us into the most generous eligibility requirements in the nation.

This most recent expansion makes the system that Governor Quinn described in 2012 as unsustainable look like child's play.

Let's cut to the chase. This year the state is spending significantly more money than at any point in history. Next year, with yet again new and extended tax increases, the pot will grow even larger. Will your local entities again get stiffed in the budget going forward? Likely.

Three years from now, your local school district, community college, university, roads and bridges, public safety, et. al. will be held for ransom again because the "free" nature of Obamacare is most certainly not free. The exact same dynamic will play out again in fiscal year 2018. Guaranteed.

The outmigration of citizens and business in Illinois is well documented. The war on jobs in our state led the former governor of Indiana to suggest that "living next to Illinois is like living next to the Simpson's." So we have that going for us.

Gov. Quinn closed his recent State of the Budget address by saying, "We are the custodians of our children's future."

I agree with that statement entirely. In our case, however, the head janitor has been on vacation.

Chad Hays, a resident of Catlin, is a Republican state representative from the 104th House District. He is also an assistant minority leader. His email is chad@rephays.com.

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