By CARL GREEN
The budget standoff between Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and the state legislature continues with no sign of an end, and the bad results are starting to show all over the state, and especially in the Metro East.
Some good news is that Rauner on Aug. 20 signed off on Senate Bill 2042, a measure that at least allows Illinois to use $4.8 billion in federal funding already allotted to it. That should relieve some areas but many others are left in limbo.
Also on the plus side is that Senate Democrats have overridden Rauner’s veto of a new law to require arbitration instead of a lockout or strike if contract negotiations with state workers reach impasse. Those workers have been without a contract since July 1. The override vote now goes to the House.
Some voters – particularly retirees – may be wishing they had not been so willing to support Rauner in the last election, said David Hayes, retirees’ representative to the Greater Madison County Federation of Labor.
“I think they’re starting to realize now that the rhetoric Rauner put out about saving the state of Illinois really means that he’s going to save it on their backs – because these senior citizens groups and their centers are the first ones he’s shooting at,” Hayes said.
“A few of them have come up and told me, ‘Dave, I bought that story about how he’s going to save us, and now he’s hurting us.’ ”
Here are some of the casualties of Rauner’s budgetary war on the people of Illinois:
• CHILD CARE – Low-income, employed people – the working poor – can no longer get state help to pay for their child care after eligibility requirements were increased, leaving about 90 percent of the previous recipients ineligible. As a result, they have to stay home to watch the kids and quit their jobs, making them more dependent or even, in some cases, homeless. An estimated 5,000 families and 9,000 children are affected.
• ROAD REPAIRS – Illinois drivers continue to pay the state gasoline tax whenever they fill up their cars, but the money is not available to municipalities that need to repair roads.
• DISABILITIES – The state has failed to pay service providers’ bills for 10,000 people with developmental disabilities, forcing them to sue in federal court to have the state held in contempt of court. The state lately agreed to release $71 million in payments but still owes $500 million in back bills overall.
• HOME SERVICES – This program is a net gain to taxpayers because it costs less to send home services providers than to place the recipients, disabled people up to age 60, into institutions. But Republicans want to raise the eligibility criteria, called Determination of Need or “DON,” to exclude many current recipients and force them into institutions.
• SENIOR CITIZENS – The Meals on Wheels program in East St. Louis, federally funded, had to quit delivering meals as of Aug. 3, affecting some 300 senior citizens in the region because the state has failed to appropriate the federal money.
• SHOOTING – Rauner is closing the World Shooting and Recreation Complex in Sparta, just 10 years old and built to generate tourism and house the Grand American World Trapshooting Championship, which generates $10 – $12 million a year in local business. State Rep. Jerry Costello II (D-Red Bud) has been campaigning to prevent the closure, with help from the Southwestern Illinois Central Labor Council. But the nine employees are to be laid off Sept. 30.
• LAYOFFS – LINC Inc., the agency in Swansea, IL, that helps people with disabilities remain independent, has been having to lay off workers, some of them disabled, for lack of funding from the state, and making it harder for clients to get needed services. Many other service providers face the same problem.
• RURAL TRANSPORTATION – This problem is exemplified by the Monroe-Randolph Transit District, which serves a large rural south and east of Belleville and has now ceased operations indefinitely. The district provides transportation for workers to get to jobs, schoolchildren to get from day care to school and senior citizens going to medical appointments including dialysis. Instead, 20 employees are being laid off.
How about you? We will keep this list to use again and add to it when we learn of additional budget cuts that are hurting Illinois residents. If you know of something that should be added, send the information to firstname.lastname@example.org.