I guess Tom has no choice but to see if his elected officials can actually fuck the state budget's corpse a little more since there is no evidence to suggest that they won't. I can't really blame him for trying to get the money that he could very well receive. If he doesn't ask, the Cubs would have to pay the whole $400 million in renovations themselves. If you had a stupid drunken rich uncle who is always pissing his money away on bad investments, wouldn't you ask him for money when you need it?
Perhaps I'm overstating things for the sake of humor. Can it really be that bad? Let's ask Dan Hynes, the State Comptroller who has never uttered a single humorous thing over the course of his entire life as far as I can tell. According to his website on October 10th:
Illinois had $5.1 billion in unpaid bills at the end of December. Add to that $2.25 billion in short-term loans the state must repay soon, and another $1.4 billion in unpaid health care bills that have not yet been sent to the Comptroller's Office, and the state's effective bill backlog climbs to more than $8.75 billion.
That doesn't sound too good, but deficit spending is the way things work, right? Aren't all those billions in debt just business as usual for a government that is in total control of it's cash flow?
"This ongoing fiscal disaster is threatening to permanently harm programs and services serving children, seniors and the disabled and if that is allowed to happen, this state will have failed our most vulnerable citizens," Hynes said.
Oh. Well maybe we've hit rock bottom and things are getting better?
Suppliers of goods and services to the state, including health care providers and other critical social services are waiting 92 business days to be reimbursed – or more than 4 ½ months. That delay is almost double the 48 business-day delay at this time last year.
So... it's getting worse.
But talking about "critical social services" sounds so abstract. Who is really being hurt by the state not being able to pay its bills?
As a speech pathologist specializing in Early Intervention, Kris works with hundreds of little kids under three years old who require help to eat, walk, use their hands, speak, or learn problem-solving skills. This includes kids who function high on the autism spectrum like kids with Asperger's Disorder. It also involves the kids who have chromosomal abnormalities like Down's Syndrome or DiGeorge Syndrome like Ryan Dempster's little girl.
She helps these little kids who have been dealt a bad hand at birth by contracting with the State of Illinois through their Early Intervention program that provides funding for evaluation and therapy. The problem is, the State doesn't pay her very often. Those estimates by Dan Hynes I quoted were pretty much dead on with how far the State gets behind with Kris' billing.
And it isn't just Kris. All of her colleagues are experiencing the same thing. Those who work for themselves better hope they had money set aside to meet their monthly bills, because you never really know when Illinois will cut them a check. Those who run small businesses of therapists often have to resort to taking out loans to make payroll. Many are nearing or at the end of their lines of credit since the state has been pulling this crap for at least two years now.
People just can't afford to stay in a profession where one might not get paid for the work one does. That is a looming tragedy for thousands of children in Illinois who may soon face a shortage of trained therapists to provide the services that they don't get paid for. And it will eventually hit us all in the pocketbooks.
Kids need these services before they are three years old. Kris, who is incidentally way smarter than me, said that children have what is called neural plasticity. She further explained to me in small words and a few drawings that neural plasticity is the ability of the brain to make new neural connections. Essentially, if the brain has bad connections, before the age of three it is much easier to redirect the connections and correct the issue. After the age of three, the neural connections slow significantly, making correction of issues much more difficult and costly.
Yes, State of Illinois, I said it would be more costly. How much more costly? Well, lets ask Louis Rosetti, who developed the essential tool used to assess kids' language skills that is named after him and knows a thing or two about treating children who are delayed:
Louis Rossetti reports that cost analyses of early intervention programs in terms of both program costs and savings in the long-term indicate that one dollar spent on an early intervention program can save anywhere from three to seven dollars. He provides an excellent summary of this data:
At the least, measurable savings can be realized if parents are better able to meet the needs of their child at home, thus avoiding the need for institutional or more involved care. There are considerable savings in educational costs, as early intervention increases the likelihood of regular education placement. A saving is also realized for children who need long-term special education services if intervention begins early. In addition, parents of children with special needs are enabled to become more self-sufficient.
I don't know what the hell he is talking about either, but I do understand that it could cost anywhere from three to seven times more in the future to ignore little kids therapeutic needs before the age of three.
Maybe Tom Ricketts or any of the politicians that will almost assuredly give Tom the $200 million he's asking for would like to explain how better concessions at a baseball game are more important than kids with developmental delays. Maybe they can guarantee that anywhere from $600 million to $1.4 billion will be added back into the state's treasury as a result of wider aisles and a Hall of Fame of Epic Failure at Wrigley.
I'm obviously particularly close to this situation, but when someone talks about "critical social services," this is the sort of stuff they are talking about. The painful reality is that the people who get hurt most by things like this don't contribute millions to the campaigns of the people who make the decisions, nor are children able to vote, so they get screwed over and over again.
And it pisses me off. I only hear about a small percentage of the kids that Kris sees, but when she talks about her day, it is usually heart-breaking to hear about all the children who did nothing wrong who struggle just to get through each day and realizing that the State of Illinois obviously could give a shit, because if they did, they would pay the people who are trying to help.
Giving the Cubs the money they want while the state is in this kind of financial crisis is just plain wrong.
Lots of people don't like the plan and/or think the plan has no chance in hell of passing:
- Bleacher Report
- Ed Sherman
- Exile on Clark
- Field of Schemes