Caring Illinois taxpayers stepped up and donated more than $1.6 million to charities and non-profits over the last two years through an option on their state income tax form. 


But Gov. Pat Quinn and other state officials seized that money to help pay for the state’s ever-ballooning state deficit.


 

Caring Illinois taxpayers stepped up and donated more than $1.6 million to charities and non-profits over the last two years through an option on their state income tax form. 

But Gov. Pat Quinn and other state officials seized that money to help pay for the state’s ever-ballooning state deficit.

The money — seized from at least 15 different “charity” funds — is a part of the Illinois Department of Revenue’s way of “making giving easy” by allowing taxpayers to donate their tax refunds or other money to funds described as “charities.”

These “check-off” funds as they are often called, include a variety of different charities from feeding the hungry to researching diseases to saving wildlife.

In the fiscal year 2010 — when 2008 tax donations were first available for spending — Quinn authorized more than $430,000 in sweeps from seven of the funds.

Sweeps pay for basic government operations, coming from special funds that have specific purposes to the general revenue fund, which happens to be the state’s largest pool of money.

There is a difference between “swept” and “borrowed” funds. The state doesn’t have to return any swept funds, but borrowed funds must be paid back within 18 months.

Of the $430,000 swept, it included $13,800 for assistance to the homeless, $33,300 for breast and cervical cancer research and $250,000 for child abuse prevention.

How can the state get away with something like this? 

Well, it shouldn’t.

Can I go “sweep” from a bank and not be charged with a crime? No, and neither should the state of Illinois.

Illinois taxpayers donated a total of $1.37 million to 10 different funds for the 2009 tax year, but during this fiscal year — the year in which the state was able to use it — Quinn has borrowed more than $1.17 million from seven of the 10 funds.

Sure, these charities are supposedly going to eventually receive their borrowed money with interest, but when? And what about the “swept” funds?

By law, the state is required to pay the borrowed money back within 18 months, but our school districts and places of higher learning have been waiting for months to receive any money they were promised from the 2009-10 school year, let alone this past school year.

These are organizations that live and die with the donations from citizens wanting to do the right thing and give back, but when the state “sweeps” or “borrows” money — money which was encouraged to be donated through state tax forms — why would anyone donate this way in the future now that they know most of the 2008 or 2009 money never went to — or was extremely delayed in reaching — its designated purpose?

Obviously, this state needs a lot of help in terms of climbing out of the deep financial hole years of financial mismanagement has left us in — more than $13 billion in debt — but “sweeping” and “borrowing” from charities is not the answer.

The amount of money that is being used by the state is not nearly enough to make a dent in the debt, but it’s more than enough to severely cripple organizations that run on very tight budgets. 

On March 21, 2011, Quinn borrowed $134,900 from the Alzheimer’s disease research fund; that left less than $1,300. During the previous fiscal year, the state swept $112,500 from the same fund.

This is an absolute travesty.

My grandmother died last August after a six-year-long battle with Alzheimer’s, so research in this area is of utmost importance to my family and me. 

According to a report by “Generation Alzheimer’s,” the deadly brain disorder will develop in one in eight of the baby boomer generation. The report also says that as the post-World War II babies begin to turn 65, their risk for the disease doubles every five years.

It is expected that up to 10 million baby boomers can expect to develop the disease, which currently has no prevention or cure.

At a time in which baby boomers are hitting that age when Alzheimer’s and dementia becomes more prevalent, taking money away that would have gone toward finding a cure for Alzheimer’s or other worthy causes is not in the best interest of the state or its people. 

Trying to pick the state up and get it back on its feet is what Illinois citizens elected Quinn and other state lawmakers to do, but not if it comes at the expense of seeing thousands of more downtrodden citizens who use these services suffer for nothing more than a short-term gain.