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Rally calls attention to threatened budget cuts

June 16, 2009 3:37:12 PM PDT
A Tuesday rally in the Loop called attention to threatened cuts in the Illinois budget that could affect foster children, the elderly and many others in need. It is the latest round in the battle to get the governor and Illinois lawmakers to agree on a new budget. The governor is threatening massive cuts unless lawmakers ok a big tax increase.

Gov. Pat Quinn also says thousands of state workers could lose their jobs, unless there is an income tax increase, and he wants lawmakers to return to Springfield so they can get back to work.

Quinn and staff members put on a media blitz Tuesday to raise public awareness of the budget crisis and the eminent social service cuts if Illinois does not raise new revenue. The governor appeared with vulnerable seniors. There was a demonstration outside the Thompson Center and state contractors were called to meetings in downtown Chicago.

Their faces were glum as hundreds of social service providers left meetings called by the governor's office Tuesday. They were told that their programs -- that annually receive billions of dollars in state aid -- will be cut by at least 50 percent or eliminated altogether by July 1.

Some wondered aloud: are the threatened cuts another political bluff?

"There's always some bluffing going on between the governor and the legislature at this time of year," said Mark Bouie, Beatrice Caffrey Youth Services.

"You can probably tell by the looks that I'm pretty frightened. This is not something I'm taking lightly," said Anthony Kopera, PhD, Community Counseling Centers of Chicago.

"Do the tactics scare us? Absolutely. But it's not something I'm going to take lightly," said Jerry Kaplan, United Way.

The governor, who wants the reluctant state legislature to approve an income tax increase to maintain programs for the elderly, children, the disabled and veterans, told reporters he is being honest about what would happen without new revenue.

"I don't believe in bluffing. I'm not very good at playing poker because I don't know how to bluff. I think it's important to lay out the facts," said Gov. Quinn.

Advocates for a tax increase demonstrated outside the Thompson Center as elsewhere... recipients were disgusted that their programs appeared to be the only ones on the chopping block.

"This is a legislative disgrace, that these people cannot get together and help those persons who are the most needy," said Mike O'Connor, aid recipient.

"I feel like I am being a pawn on a chess board. That's what I feel like...Used by the politicians to play their game of chess, their political game of chess," said Ruth Long, aid recipient.

The governor said, without new revenue, there will be cuts in non-social service programs as well as layoffs of state workers.

The governor will meet with legislative leaders from both parties Wednesday in Chicago.


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