Area leaders call for lawmakers to save services
From the Responsible Budget Coalition
ROCKFORD – Over 2,114 seniors and 603 persons with disabilities in Northern Illinois would lose access to independent living services. 363 families that have children with autism in the region would lose access to therapy and diagnostic services. Childcare assistance would be cut for over 100,000 children statewide. Northern Illinois local governments would have $34 million less to provide police, fire, economic development, and other vital services for their residents. State funding for Northern Illinois University would be cut by 31 percent.
Residents gathered Tuesday night at Rock Valley College to discuss ways those and other harmful cuts contained in Governor Rauner’s proposed budget could be avoided. With less than a month before the start of the new fiscal year on July 1, the Governor and the General Assembly have failed to reach an agreement on the budget. They are grappling with an over $6 billion deficit. The deficit was caused by politicians’ failure to extend corporate and individual income tax rates, which dropped 25 percent this year.
School superintendents, mental health advocates, childcare providers, and nonprofit and community leaders in Northern Illinois, bolstered by new analyses by budget experts, are calling on the Governor and lawmakers to choose revenue to avoid deep spending cuts to services for children, families, and communities.
“He’s stepping over a dollar to pick up a dime,” says Robin C. Garvey of Governor Rauner’s proposed $82 million cut to mental health services. Garvey is past president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Northern Illinois and one of the organizers of Tuesday’s public forum. “The deep mental health cuts in the Governor’s proposal would end up costing taxpayers more in ER visits and public safety costs, while families and communities suffer.”
Garvey notes that when Illinois cut mental health and addiction treatment services by $113 million between FY09-FY11, those cuts cost the state $131.4 million in increased hospitalizations and institutionalizations. “The fiscally responsible option is for the Governor and lawmakers to choose revenue instead of these short-sighted cuts,” she says.
“The steep cuts that the Governor is proposing are extremely impactful to children and families in Northern Illinois communities,” said Keli Freedlund, Superintendent of Kinnikinnick School District, another organizer of the event. Freedlund says that cuts to school funding, after-school programs, children’s health care, and other vital services for families negatively effect classroom learning. “Our children’s education is at stake. Lawmakers must investigate all possibilities available to them to uphold the quality of education in the State of Illinois.”
State budget expert David Lloyd, the Director of the Fiscal Policy Center at Voices for Illinois Children, identified a range of revenue options that show cuts to vital services are unnecessary. Some of these revenue options include modernizing Illinois’ sales tax code to include more services, closing corporate loopholes, taxing some retirement income, and restoring all or part of the income tax rate that expired in January.
Lloyd gives some examples of why Illinois’ tax system is unfair and out-of-date.
“It doesn’t make sense for Illinois to be giving corporate tax breaks for jobs created in other states. It doesn’t make sense for Illinois to tax a middle class family who buys a lawnmower but not an upper-income family that hires a lawn service. It doesn’t make sense for Illinois to tax a movie on DVD but not that same movie purchased online. Illinois’ antiquated tax system is costing us billions that could be used for investments families need,” Lloyd says.
Community leaders are requesting residents contact their state lawmakers at 1-844-311-CUTS (2887) and ask them to choose revenue over harmful cuts to families and communities.