Call it the full-court press -- kiddie style. In politics, image counts for a lot. And who can say no to adorable, innocent kids, typically from lower-income homes, who are caught in the budget crossfire that threatens their daycare arrangements? Not the governor, who came to a West Side agency that's been helping newcomers for more than a century to plead for a budget deal.
The governor might have been forgiven for wishing these were the kind of faces he encountered in the General Assembly When his plans to raise the state income tax were shot down -- and a partial budget passed last that would cut funding to places such as Erie House, 1701 W. Superior, by 50 percent -- enough, advocates say, to force having to choose which kids get subsidized daycare and which do not.
"Where else can I bring her? Because all my family work, so without Erie I would be left behind and my children left behind with no education," said Sofia Tipiani, daycare user.
The governor said he is engaged in a fight for the soul of his party and the state of Illinois. And he quoted former first lady Jackie Kennedy.
"She said, if you bungle raising your children, nothing else in life matters, and I believe that and I think all of us believe that. It is our duty, mission, responsibility to make sure that we raise our children right," said Gov. Pat Quinn.
"Shame on the General Assembly for jerking low-income families around and frightening low-income families," said Maria Whelan, Illinois Action for Children.
It's a message that resonated with social service providers
"Every single person in this room will multiply 100-fold, and we will be communicating with every member of the General Assembly and saying shame on you, not on our watch will we pick this side of the room or that side of the room," said Whelan.
State Republicans, and a lot of Democrats too, opposed the income tax hike. They think the governor, instead of presenting children as victims, should be working harder to reform state pension obligations and other big-ticket items in the budget to spare the clients of places like this economic despair.
"I am a governor who stood in the middle of the arena and proposed fundamental pension reforms for public employees. I got booed by some of them, but we do have to do that," said Gov. Quinn.
"I don't know of a person out there in these days that isn't trying to make do, stretch their dollar more, make do with what they have and make the most out of every single dollar, and I don't think people trust that the state of Illinois has done the same thing," said Carole Pankau, (R) - Senate minority caucus whip.
You might see more photo ops like this as the budget battle is in overtime session now with both parties getting to vote on a final budget -- if they get there.