"The state of our state is just desperate at this point." That's how Dan Lesser, director of economic justice at the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, described the "State of Our State" at press conference in Springfield 24 hours ahead of the Governor's State of the State address. Lesser was joined by providers and families from Central Illinois and across the state. They unveiled a new report on the harm being done due to the failure to pass a responsible budget.
“It’s wrong to put other issues, other agenda items, other personal agenda items, in front of coming up with a state budget,” said Lesser. “You can see the pain that’s being caused by this insistence on preconditions to actually negotiating and enacting a state budget.”
That pain includes the loss of support services for homeless veterans in Decatur, a 25 percent reduction in hours for all staff at a Charleston rape crisis center, and cuts to staff, hours or programs at 75 percent of county health departments south of Interstate 70.
Polly Poskin, Executive Director of the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, made it crystal clear why the Governor and lawmakers need to put non-budget issues aside and enact a responsible budget that invests in families.
“Sexual assault survivors don’t need term limits or tort reform in the aftermath of a sexual assault. They need counseling and safe space and support," said Poskin.
Donnie Lewis, a student advocate at Richland Community College, said the college was forced to raise its tuition because of a lack of funding 200 students lost their MAP grants. He says funding colleges is not only going to help the students, but the Illinois economy as well.
"Our economy is going to continue to suffer unless we choose revenue to fund colleges and universities. With a strong higher education system, Illinois families will be able to earn more. Our economy will grow at a faster rate and we'll attract business from far and wide," said Lewis.
Mark Stutrud, president and CEO of Lutheran Social Services of Illinois, said Rauner and the legislature have to agree to raise taxes to ensure there is an adequately funded budget. Last week, LSSI, the largest provider of social services in Illinois, said it was closing 30 programs and eliminating 750 positions, roughly 43 percent of its staff, because the state has not paid millions of dollars it owes for providing services. The agency said it will no longer be able to provide assistance to 4,700 people.
Adam Ballard of Access Living Chicago spoke also spoke about the threat the budget situtation poses to those allowing those with disabilities to live indepdently in their own homes.
Central Illinois "State of Our State" News Coverage
New Must-Read Report
Read the new Responsible Budge Coalition report "State of Our State: Failure to Invest in Families and Communities Is Weakening Illinois."