Budget hearing shows support for override

State Rep. Chuck Jefferson, D-Rockford, was joined by state and local officials to hear testimony provided by local agencies affected by the governor’s budget cuts. The budget hearing, held Thursday, Sept. 20, in the E.J. “Zeke” Giorgi Center, incorporated testimony from numerous local groups, including Rockford CeaseFire, Booker Washington Community Center and the Rockford Public Library.

State senators Dave Syverson (R) and Brad Burzynski (R), along with state representatives Dave Winters (R), Ron Wait (R) and Bob Pritchard (R), joined Jefferson in listening to the testimony. The hearing was held to provide a voice to those groups hurt by the governor’s budget cuts.

The forum began with opening remarks by Jefferson, Syverson, Burzynski, Pritchard, Wait and Winters, followed by a House staff member who demonstrated the punitive nature of Blagojevich’s budget vetoes.

Although the governor cut projects secured by most House Democrats and Senate Republicans, he left intact those of House Republicans and those from most members of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR).

JCAR is a bipartisan legislative oversight committee that may be asked to approve the governor’s health care expansion programs.

A lump-sum appropriation meant for Senate Democrats was also left untouched.

Despite these facts, House Republicans remain skeptical the governor will actually release the funds for their districts, especially if they oppose other legislation the governor seeks to have enacted.

The presentations illustrated the governor’s contradictory claims about the state budget that received overwhelming legislative support. The governor and his spokesmen say there will not be enough revenue to pay for the projects secured by lawmakers, while at the same time they have given ample indication they intend to use the money saved by eliminating those same projects for health care spending.

The governor cut a total of $470 million from the budget. Curiously, Blagojevich’s cuts to health care across the state total more than $130.3 million of the $470 million.

“The legislature approved a balanced budget that increased money for our schools,” Jefferson said. “We funded good projects that would help our community. The testimony that we heard shows that the projects the governor cut are not ‘pork’ and they are essential. It is irresponsible of the governor to create new programs without also creating a viable method of funding it.”

In addition to slicing health care spending, the governor also cut human service spending by $103.3 million; education by $102.2 million; economic development and job training programs by $17.3 million; public safety by $31.9 million; local government and infrastructure improvement projects by $26.9 million; and parks by $5 million.

In addition to cuts that will have statewide ramifications, in Jefferson’s district the governor eliminated funding for a range of education, transportation, infrastructure, health care and emergency response grants, including the following:

$700,000 for Winnebago County economic development projects;

$700,000 for Rural Medical Education Program at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford;

$500,000 for the Rockford Park District’s Sportscore Two and park rehab;

$250,000 for Rockford CeaseFire;

$100,000 for Rockford Public Library’s expansion;

$100,000 for Progressive West Rockford’s after-school programming;

$100,000 for Booker Washington Community Center’s senior programming and tutoring;

$50,000 for Crusader Clinic’s medical equipment;

$75,000 for Rockford Public School District’s gifted programs;

$25,000 for La Voz Latina’s rogramming;

$25,000 for Barbara Olson Center of Hope’s operating expenses;

$50,000 for FOLITICA’s job and life-skills training;

$50,000 for Camaraderie Arts’ life-skills programming; and

$25,000 for Patriot’s Gateway Community Center’s after-school programming.

“Our organization is in serious trouble without support from the state of Illinois,” said Will Ashford, project director of CeaseFire Rockford. “Without this money from the state, I do not know if we will be able to continue providing our services. I am glad that Rep. Jefferson has given us the opportunity to make our struggles known to the public.”

“We provide a safe haven for tutoring and mentoring for students from first grade through 12th grade,” said Calvin Squire, director of Booker Washington Community Center. “If we are not here, where are the kids going to go? Organizations like Booker Washington keep kids off of the streets and out of trouble. The governor needs to realize that our programs are worthwhile and deserve funding.”

Senate Minority Leader Frank C. Watson (R), House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R) and House Speaker Michael Madigan (D) have all indicated they support an override of the governor’s budget veto.

Jefferson noted that even if the override attempt is successful, it is only the first step. The governor might still refuse to release the funds. He called on local residents to contact the governor’s office at (312) 814-2121, TTY: (888) 261-3336 or write him at: Office of the Governor, 207 State House, Springfield, IL 62706.

Jefferson also urges those who support an override to contact Senate President Emil Jones Jr. (D) to respectfully ask he reconsider his decision not to allow the budget vetoes to be called for an override vote. Jones can be reached at (217) 782-2728 and letters can be sent to: Office of the Senate President, 327 State House, Springfield, IL 62706.from the Sept. 26 – Oct. 2, 2007, issue

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