Ahead of Gov. Bruce Rauner's State of the State address, members of the Responsible Budget Coalition drew attention to the negative impacts of the ongoing Illinois budget impasse at a press conference in Chicago. They described a State of the State that is in weak condition.
From where we are, Illinois is weak and getting weaker,” said Emily Miller, director of policy and advocacy with Voices for Illinois Children.
“Every day the governor refuses to make the budget a number one priority, we get even more weak. Without a budget, billions of dollars have been cut — ranging from tuition assistance that enables low-income students to afford college and after-school programs that keep youth safe.”
Illinois lost $6 billion used to pay for critical public services when leaders allowed corporate and individual tax rates to expire last January.
“Without replacing the billions of dollars of revenue lost, after last year’s 25 percent tax cut, the state’s backlog of unpaid bills is skyrocketing,” Miller said.
“The inability of our elected leaders to do their constitutionally mandated jobs is leading to systemic collapse of the safety net that we all rely on to keep kids and communities safe,” Durbin said.
Durbin spoke about the Comprehensive Community-Based Youth Services (CCBYS) program, which serves nearly 7,000 youth statewide and has gone unfunded since July 1.
Durbin said more CCBYS programs across the state could be suspended in February or March, adding that many have already reduced staff, hours and non-crisis programming.
"CCBYS is keeping out of (the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services system) each year more teenagers than DCFS is serving today," she said. "We could double the population of teenagers in the child welfare system" if more CCBYS services are suspended.
Such a situation, Durbin added, would cost the state more in the long-run.
"A residential treatment program for DCFS is over $100,000 a year," she explained. "These community programs [are] less than $2,000 per year per kid."
Safe places for youth in dangerous neighborhoods have closed due to the lack of a responsible state budget. High school freshman Christian Washington attended a now-closed program for teenagers at a Chicago YMCA.
When I learned that the YMCA lost its teen funding, I felt so hurt. I was so worried about what was going to happen to my friends and me. Where would we go every day after school? These streets are so bad. And there are really no positive places for us to hang out and be safe, like at the Y," said Christian.
Erie Neighborhood House in Chicago, which provides a range of services for low-income Latino families, has been forced to cut services for hundreds of clients. Since last July, the loss of state funds has forced Erie House to lay off eight full-time employees, Executive Director Celena Roldan said, which has “dramatically impacted” services to about 250 out of the 5,000 clients the organization serves annually.
“So we are asking our governor and all of our leadership and all of our champions in Illinois to do the right thing and save our state,” said Celena Roldan.
A military veteran who attends DePaul University told of how college students are being harmed.
“I rely on MAP grants. I’m a veteran and a student. I am having trouble making ends meet. There are thousands of other students and universities out there experiencing the same thing,” said DePaul University studentTyler Solorio. “This budget stalemate is a crisis and it’s a crisis that will have ripple affects going on for years.”
All this begs the question:
"How many people have to stand in front of a microphone and say that their lives are being ruined before the governor decides to make passing a budget his number one priority?"
Chicago "State of Our State" News Coverage
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Read the new Responsible Budge Coalition report "State of Our State: Failure to Invest in Families and Communities Is Weakening Illinois."