Here's the skinny:
On May 31, 2009 the Illinois General Assembly passed a partial year budget for FY 2010 that created a $9.2 billion funding gap, which is forcing drastic cuts in community- and state-provided fundamental social services ($5 billion in cuts for community-provided services and $4.2 billion in cuts for state-provided services, says Governor Quinn). (This issue is the "Current Focus" on the www.illinois.gov website.) We're looking at severe cuts in mental health services, addiction prevention and treatment programs, violence prevention programs, family planning services, child care and youth services, and education programs. The budget is set to go into effect July 1 (next Wednesday) and will be devastating to the people of Illinois unless we demand that our legislators return to Springfield and work out a budget for the full fiscal year that includes new revenue to support these critical programs in our communities (which can be achieved by a 2% tax increase).
When considering the breadth of the budget cuts, here are just a few of the numbers (and their sources) to give you an idea of how this budget vote could affect the every day lives of Illinois citizens. The budget cuts would result in:
- the lose of $271 million in child care assistance, thus eliminating care for over 142,000 children (who are members of over 80,000 low-income working families) (Governor's Office - Department of Human Services; Planned Parenthood of Illinois)
- the elimination of preschool for 100,000 children (Planned Parenthood of Illinois)
- the elimination of $251 million (a cut of 40% in rates) for providers who serve children and adults with developmental disabilities (Governor's Office - Department of Human Services)
- a $108 million reduction in funding for community mental health programs (Governor's Office - Department of Human Services)
- the closing of 6 of the 9 state-operated psychiatric hospitals (Governor's Office - Department of Human Services)
- a 50% cut to the stipend received by foster parents, meaning that many parents may no longer be able to afford to care for their foster children. Approximately 20,000 children could lose their foster families. (Planned Parenthood of Illinois; Governor's Office - Department of Children and Family Services)
- the tripling of DCFS staff workers' foster care caseloads from 15 children to 50 children and the doubling of active investigative caseloads from 11 to 20 cases per investigator (Governor's Office - Department of Children and Family Services)
- a 75% cut in community health programs (including teen, family, and domestic violence programs) (Governor's Office - Department of Human Services)
- the elimination of all community care program services for 20,000 lower-income seniors not eligible for Medicaid and reducing benefits for 55% of the remaining 35,000 Medicaid eligible community-care clients (Governor's Office - Department on Aging)
- the elimination of the Communities of Color Prostrate Cancer Initiative and Communities of Color HIV/AIDS Initiative, together providing services to over 375,000 people (Governor's Office - Illinois Department of Public Health)
- the cutting of $247 million in MAP undergraduate grants and college book stipends for 147,500 low-income students (Governor's Office - Illinois Student Assistance Commission)
- a 75% cut in state family planning funding, resulting in nearly 6,500 women not receiving their annual medical exam, pap smear, or supply of oral contraceptives. (Planned Parenthood of Illinois)
- a lose of $9 million in funding to the YWCA, which would lead to the closure of 1/3 of their facilities (Planned Parenthood of Illinois)
- the forced layoffs of more than 10,000 state workers (Governor's Office)
- the estimated lose of $2 billion in federal matching funds to the state of Illinois (Governor's Office)
- the endangerment of up to $3 billion in federal stimulus funds over the next two years (Governor's Office)
And to make it a bit more real, if you need even more concrete evidence of the budget's destructive potential, every week for the past two and a half years I've hung out with three and four year olds at the St. Vincent DePaul Center, which provides (in addition to other things) NAEYC-accredited child care and early childhood education. We have 25 classrooms, serving infants through kids in full-day kindergarten, plus before- and after-school care for school age children. The proposed budget cuts would entirely eliminate the child care and youth programs, affecting more than 800 Chicago children and families at this one site alone. Plus, all of our education staff will be cut, contributing to the statewide increase in forced layoffs. Many families the Center serves will literally be forced into the position of choosing between buying food for their family, paying rent and utilities, or paying for child care.
The proposed budget cuts would destroy our Center, spit in the face of our 94 year history, and devastate the lives of families with whom we partner.
But such tragedy is not the only option. With the passing of an as small as 2% tax increase, the citizens of Illinois can save the programs that support our communities. A 2% tax increase would raise our taxes from 3% to 5%, which for the average Illinois family is roughly $14 a week. While $14 a week, and thus $56 a month, adds up, it is a worthy sacrifice to maintain the programs that support the health and well-being of all Illinois citizens. This budget cut stands to hurt all of us and together we must be willing to tell our elected officials that we won't stand for it, that we believe alternatives to the budget cut are possible, and that we rely on their leadership and ability to represent our views by funding education, health care, and human services across the state.
To take action, you have numerous choices. You can:
Call your state representatives and voice your opposition to the “General Assembly’s 50 Percent Budget Cut.”
To locate your state representative, visit here. (It's easiest, I think, to provide your zip+4.) You can also call the Illinois State Board of Elections Chicago Office at 312-814-6440. Let the operator know that you need contact information for your state representative. You will need to provide your home address.
Before calling your representative, consider visiting Illinois Action for Children for suggestions on what to say to your state representatives. You may also want to see how your representatives voted in the original budget vote, which you can do by looking at the "House Roll Call on the Tax Increase" (pdf). IMAN has also provided a nice telephone call protocol you could use. Here's their suggestion:
Call your representative and senator along with the governor and say:You can also utilize a number of online email formats to voice your concern. Planned Parenthood of Illinois has an editable form letter that focuses on the budget cuts' consequences for women and children.
"Hi, my name is ______ and I live in ______. I would like to speak to Representative ______/Senator ______/Governor Quinn."You will probably be told that he/she is not available. If so, ask to leave a message:
"I am calling to ask Representative ______/Senator ______/Governor Quinn to work with others in Springfield to resolve the current budget crisis. I support an income tax increase from 3% to 5% and an expansion of the sales tax base in order to fund education, health care, and human services across the state. I am counting on your leadership in this important effort! Thank you for your consideration."Please call your state representative (Illinois House) first and then call Gov. Quinn (217-782-0244) and your state senator all this week. Ask five other people to do the same.
And the National Association of Social Workers Illinois chapter is sponsoring a more general but still editable email in which they use your address (or zip+4) to pull up all your elected officials' contact information. Then they allow you to choose to whom you would like to send your email. They also give you the option of sending a copy of your email to a large number of media organizations. It's a quick and easy way to go.
Please take action. Immediately. You can do it. It's important that you do it. It's makes a huge difference for the future of our communities.
(photo credits: These are some of my kids from the Center. These are the kids who stand to lose childcare if the budgets is implemented next week. The consequences to their families may be dire.)