In Illinois, homebound seniors are losing meals. Hardworking low-income college students are being forced to drop out of school. Sexual assault victims and homeless veterans are going without services that are essential for their well-being.
This desperation and suffering is the true state of our state. And though you might not know it from listening to Governor Bruce Rauner’s State of the State address, it was made crystal clear when hundreds of Illinoisans descended on the Capitol last week.
A day ahead of Governor Rauner’s address, the Responsible Budget Coalition (RBC) coordinated four press conferences throughout the state to shed light on the real-life harm being caused by the enduring budget impasse. As those press conferences revealed, for many of our state’s most at risk people, living in Illinois in the absence of a responsible budget has meant living without vital services.
Julie Mavec, a case manager with Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois (LCFS), told the story of one Vietnam Veteran who, for five years prior to receiving her assistance, had been paying rent to live on a porch. With the help of Mavec and LCFS, that veteran is now in stable housing, has access to dental and health care treatment, and has been reunited with his children. The budget impasse, however, has caused LCFS to suspend some of its services, putting many veterans — like the one Mavec mentioned — at risk. “Without those services,” she concluded, “he would be out on the street — maybe even dead by now.”
For many low-income college students, the impasse has meant losing much-needed state financial support in the form of Monetary Assistance Program (MAP) grants, and thus having to drop out of school and forgo a shot at the American dream.
“It’s devastating to people like me,” said Hannah Mahaney, a single mother and full-time student at Robert Morris University. Hannah, who also works part time, explained that the suspension of MAP grant awards and cuts to daycare assistance due to the impasse are undermining her ability to finish school, provide for her daughter, and fulfill her potential. “Without quality childcare,” she added, “I will be left to wonder if my daughter is in good hands while I’m in school or at work.”
While deeply distressing, these individual stories are only emblematic of the broad-scale pain being inflicted by the budget impasse. So, in addition to highlighting these and other anecdotes, the RBC also released a report that details the extensive harm being done to individuals, communities, and local economies throughout the state.
But Governor Rauner would not need to read RBC’s report to get a sense of the damage being done. He would just need to listen to the voices of the nearly 600 Illinoisans from all around the state who gathered on the first floor of the Capitol hours before his address. After sharing more stories and rallying in the rotunda, the hundreds then marched to the third floor and urged state legislators to make them a priority.
“Hey hey, ho ho, budget cuts have got to go,” hundreds chanted in unison as lawmakers — Governor Rauner included — slipped into the House chamber for the address. The chants continued throughout the duration of Governor Rauner’s remarks, reaching such a volume that they could be heard inside the chamber.
Those calls, though loud, would fall on deaf ears. Despite the hundreds clamoring outside the chamber door, Governor Rauner treated the budget as an afterthought in his address — effectively turning a deaf ear on hundreds of concerned children, students, childcare providers, veterans, seniors, faith leaders, immigrants, and working families.
The Governor has yet to respond, but Illinoisans have delivered a lucid, powerful message: We have had enough. It’s time for Governor Rauner to stop holding the Illinois people hostage to his non-budget personal agenda. We want a budget that provides adequate revenue and does not impose painful cuts on our families and communities. Without one, our state will continue to grow ever weaker.
Trevor Brown contributed to this blog.