Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Results of Irresponsible Legislation

While legislators continue to enjoy their summer vacations and the Governor continues to ignore the pleas of the most needy people in his state, agencies have begun the arduous process of laying off employees, denying services and, in some cases, shuttering their doors completely.

This article from yesterday's State Journal Register tells the story of Kamp Kaleidoscope, a summer day camp for developmentally disabled children run by the Springfield Arc, Inc. (SPARC). Due to a 95% cut to their services, Kamp Kaleidoscope closed its doors for the summer "leaving the parents of the 69 participants scrambling for child care."

While parents across the state are desperate to find care for their children, letters to the editors of downstate and Chicago papers continue to pour in.

Please take a look at the following letters from concerned care-givers and citizens alike:

From The Chicago Tribune:
Please raise my income tax
June 29, 2009

Raise my taxes, please!

Illinois legislators must pass an increase in the state income tax to continue funding human services at current levels.

We all know someone who will be devastated by the drastic cuts in human services. Maybe the working, low-income family that will lose the child care assistance that helps pay for quality child care -- or maybe an adult with a developmental disability who is being successfully supported in his community. The Illinois Secretary of Human Services projects that 1 million infants, children and adults will lose services and that 200,000 people in the non-profit community will lose jobs.

My friends and neighbors - all people of modest means - support an income tax increase because we know it's needed.

If legislators do the right thing this week, we will remember them at election time for their political courage.

-Bonnie Dohogne, Evanston

From The Peoria Journal-Star
Forum: State budget needs to look out for the needy and disabled
June 22, 2009

We all know that times are tough and money is short. Illinois lawmakers have once again failed to put a budget together that will meet the needs of the state's citizens. People with disabilities, along with the elderly, poor, children, and those with mental-health needs are the major losers in this ridiculous political showdown.

Everyone has their own theory about the reasons for this disaster, and there's probably plenty of blame to go around. The problems with the Illinois budget are not new. We struggle with the same issues year after year, the lack of revenue and the assurance that what is there will be used thoughtfully. Our legislators are intelligent men and women. They need to forget the political strategies and game-playing and do the jobs to which they were entrusted by their constituents.

People with disabilities and the service providers who support them cannot afford funding cuts! The system is severely underfunded already, as more than 17,000 people with disabilities in Illinois wait to be selected to receive funding for services.
We cannot cut our way out of this budget predicament. New revenue has to be part of the solution, and our lawmakers need to sit down and get to work. No cuts to disability services are acceptable!

-Deb Fornoff, Washington

From The Beacon News
Special-needs children shouldn't be used as political pawns
July 3, 2009

An open letter to Illinois legislators:

As president of the first and largest Special Needs PTA in the state of Illinois, I have been watching very closely the situation surrounding the Illinois budget. I have been bombarded with e-mails from families and agencies that would be affected by these proposed cuts. I have attended Human Services rallies and am still overwhelmed by the number of people in attendance.

As you may know, PTA is the single largest children's advocacy organization in the United States. I feel it is my responsibility and privilege to advocate on behalf of the children and families that will be affected by these cuts. Since our PTA is housed in a school district that, alone, has nearly 4,000 children identified with special needs, these cuts will directly impact every single one of these families.

In our PTA alone, we have children with developmental disabilities, autism, mental disorders, visual impairments, hearing impairments and more. The DHS has been told to eliminate programs for people with developmental disabilities, including autism programs, respite and family assistance programs, and to close the Illinois School for the Deaf and the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired.

Early intervention programs will be eliminated if these cuts take place. If the block grant funding is cut for at-risk kids, the preschool programs for these at-risk kids will no longer exist. The schools won't even be in a position to absorb those supports because the state is already behind in payments to schools.

I'm asking you to go back to Springfield and work as long as necessary to resolve this crisis. Using our children as pawns in these games you are playing and employing scare tactics in an effort to raise taxes is deplorable.

Forget the infamous Illinois politics and put the children and families of our state first for a change. There has to be a compromise somewhere. This state already ranks dead last in services to the disabled. Don't give up on these individuals and their families!

Cutting these services or eliminating them entirely will not balance the budget. Denying special needs families the tools and services they require in order to participate actively, productively and independently in their communities simply cannot be an option worth considering.

-Lori Price, President, Indian Prairie District 204 Special Needs PTA, Aurora

Please take a moment to again contact your legislators and Governor Quinn and tell them they "must not" support the override of Senate Bill 1197. This is the doomsday budget. They should support House Bill 176!

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