* Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart had this letter delivered to the governor’s office yesterday
Illinois is in serious financial distress and we owe the citizens of this state an honest conversation
about how we address the crisis, both from a fiscal standpoint and a moral one. Like many, I
welcome a fresh look at how taxpayer dollars are being used and abused in all levels of
Yet, your budget proposals are alarming, not only for their insensitivity to the millions of lives
they impact, but also for their lack of financial sense. In the face of jaw-dropping budget
shortfalls, politicians for years have looked to cut state services that are crucial to large segments
of our population who lack the cash and the lobbyists to fight back.
After just a month in office, you are proposing more of the same. Cutting already strained mental
health programs; alcoholism and substance abuse treatment programs; criminal justice services
and youth services does nothing to make Illinois a place people want to live. Slashing funding
for our most vulnerable children through DCFS and kicking 18-year-old wards to the curb with
no transitional support does nothing to right our ship.
Morality aside, such tactics – which are scaring hundreds of thousands of people and children
across this state – are simply bad budgeting. When mental health and substance abuse programs
are shuttered, where do you think the people needing that care end up? When a DCFS ward –
even the ward’s child in some cases – is sent into the world without adequate help, what do you
think will happen to that teenager on the street?
We know, all too often, they end up in the most costly government system of all, the criminal
justice system. Once there, costs for prosecution and incarceration start racking up every minute,
every day, every month.
You know this too. Your own budget calls for spending more money to reduce recidivism to
save the state prison system money. You recently announced an ambitious goal to lower the state
prison population by 25% in the next 10 years. Yet, cutting social safety net programs will only
widen the pipeline to state prison for the most vulnerable members of our society.
Knowing your business acumen, I expected a budget proposal that was not so penny wise and
pound foolish with people’s lives. Please reconsider this short-sighted proposal.