This weekend, while most of the country celebrated the birth of our nation, thousands of people in Illinois were denied needed social services and/or lost their jobs in social services agencies.
This article from Crains Chicago Business by Monée Fields-White points out that while lawmakers are not planning to return to Springfield until mid-July to discuss Governor Quinn's veto of their budget, the fiscal year began on July 1st for most social services organizations. Because these organizations can't afford to gamble in such an unstable economy, they have begun to layoff employees and turn away people seeking services. Here is an excerpt from the article:
“The General Assembly can afford to live in a state of denial, but human services organizations can’t,” said Ralph Martire, executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, a non-partisan research group in Chicago. “They can’t afford to put off important fiscal decisions for their own organizations while the General Assembly plays politics....(read more)”
Further evidence of Illinois lawmakers' paralysis in the face of budget decisions can be found in a Chicago Tribune editorial from July 4th detailing the "saga" of Howe Developmental Center in Tinley Park. The state operated facility has proven to be not only expensive but dangerousm and yet Governor Quinn has prevented Howe from closing despite a recommendation from the Taxpayer Action Board to close the facility (and the Blagojevich administration's plan to close Howe on July 1st, 2009). State dollars continue to be poured into its operation. Here is an excerpt from the editorial:
This isn't just a budget or safety issue. It's also a matter of quality of life for the disabled. Ten years ago the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states must house the disabled in community based settings rather than in large institutions when it's possible to do so. Community care provides more social contact and better work and education opportunities. (And it's less expensive than large institutions)...
The community care mentioned above, is exactly the kind of services that have been slashed in the current budget.
In August of of 1818, lawmakers stated their reasons for establishing the first Illinois Constitution:
"...in order to provide for the health, safety and welfare of the people; maintain a representative and orderly government; eliminate poverty and inequality; assure legal, social and economic justice; provide opportunity for the fullest development of the individual; insure domestic tranquility; provide for the common defense; and secure the blessings of freedom and liberty to ourselves and our posterity..."
Please take a moment to call Governor Quinn, Senate President John Cullerton and Speaker of the House Michael Madigan and tell them to come back from their fourth of July vacations, reconvene the General Assembly this week, and do as the founding fathers of our state would have wanted them to do; ask them to protect Illinois' most vulnerable citizens and work together to pass a more humane budget that protects the welfare of their people.