Quinn: Food programs could face cuts

June 9, 2009 5:33:08 AM PDT
Governor Pat Quinn says services that feed the hungry in the Chicago area are threatened by state budget cuts. The governor visited Chicago's food depository Monday where he said cuts may necessary if lawmakers don't send him a balanced budget by July 1. The governor says raising income taxes could help ward off cuts to human services like the food depository.

Governor Pat Quinn says food for the hungry, aid for children, the elderly and disabled and veterans programs, all could undergo drastic cuts if the state does not find new revenue to help close the reported $12 billion budget deficit. Having had little success convincing reluctant lawmakers, Quinn is taking his case directly to the people.

The governor spoke on the warehouse floor at the Greater Chicago Food Depository, 4100 W. Ann Lurie Place, one of the many not-for-profit agencies that the governor says won't get state aid, or as much of it, if lawmakers do not approve a tax increase.

Due to the recession, the food depository has seen its clientele increase by 35 percent in the past year.

"I don't know that we can keep pulling the rabbit out of the hat. We're going to try like crazy to make sure we do, but it really does scare all of us," said Kate Maehr, Greater Chicago Food Depository.

"Under the current proposal of the legislature, they're seeking to cut human services by 50 percent," Gov. Quinn said.

Before the legislature adjourned on May 31, the state senate passed a bill to increase the income tax 67 percent, from 3 to 5 percent, and to levy the state sales tax on some services. Not only would the new taxes reduce most of the deficit, the bill's sponsors say they would provide billions for public education, aid for local governments and property tax relief for homeowners.

The Reverend Senator James Meeks is the primary sponsor.

"We are two-thirds of the way there. We have a bill that has passed the senate. We have a bill that has passed the house committee, and the governor said he will sign it," said Sen. James Meeks, (D) Chicago.

"I testified and encouraged the members of the house of representatives to put the bill on the floor of the house of representatives and take a vote," said Gov. Quinn.

But House Speaker Michael Madigan said the Meeks bill does not have the votes to pass in his chamber that in an earlier vote had already defeated a 50 percent, two-year tax increase.

Governor Quinn began the attempt to circumvent resistant lawmakers Sunday, appealing to the moral conscience of a large South Side church congregation that the members not abandon the poor to solve the state's budget crisis.

"We cannot in a recession turn our backs on people who have been given a bad break by the economy," said Gov. Quinn.

The governor will hold another meeting Tuesday with legislative leaders on the tax increase issue. He says that human service agencies will be notified later month that their grants will be cut on July 1 if the General Assembly does not approve new revenue.

Reverend Meeks is touting his plan as the long-term solution because it provides money for education and takes the sting out an income tax increase for homeowners, some of whom could get as much as a $1,500 reduction in their property tax bills.


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