If you live in Illinois, you would be hard pressed to honestly say you haven’t heard of the state’s financial mess. Here is an update of what is going on (or not going on) in Springfield and how it has impacted many residents. More importantly, it gives you some simple ways that you can get involved and let your voice be heard.
A special session with Governor Rauner and Democrat leaders is scheduled for November 18, 2015. While this sounds overly encouraging, the Governor has already announced that a deal must include significant public union concessions that Mike Madigan has categorically rejected thus far (Nov 18 meeting).
On October 16, Reboot Illinois (an excellent source of information on this crisis) offered some of the most damaging consequences thus far (10 Worst Things ). I have streamlined and simplified the wording to make the findings more readable:
1. 911 emergency centers are not getting revenue. This could lead to layoffs and longer call wait times.
2. In spite of a law passed on August 14, 2015 requiring additional training and re-training for police officers, hundreds of training classes have been cancelled.
3. For any Illinois Lottery cash prizes above $600, winners will not be paid until there is a new budget. Tickets are still being sold, but it is likely that participation will steadily decline.
4. Illinois college students Monetary Award Program funds will not get credited in the spring semester if there is no new budget by then.
5. Approximately 735 projects at about 135 state parks are now on indefinite hold.
6. State subsidized daycare for low-income families was cut back significantly on July 1, 2015. Since then, hundreds of child care providers have ceased operations and over 4700 new applicants have been turned away.
7. About 75,000 Illinois domestic violence victims are about to lose services.
8. More than 150,000 senior citizens and individuals with disabilities will not be receiving assistance to pay their energy bills.
The longer this impasse continues, the worse the consequences will be. Comptroller Leslie Munger, who was appointed by Gov. Bruce Rauner, told WROK-AM radio last month that a higher, 5 percent income tax won’t be enough now because our debt has continued to climb.
Fortunately, Reboot Illinois recently offered concrete suggestions as to what concerned citizens can do to apply political pressure (Help end stalemate). Here they are in a nutshell:
1. Use Reboot Illinois’ Sound Off tool to send a message, all at once, to your individual state representative and senator along with Rauner, House Speaker Michael Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton and the two Republican caucus leaders.
2. Use the power of social media. It’s worked wonders already. People have a bad experience with a retailer, they take to social media. People want to show support for breast cancer or marriage for all, they change their profile pictures. The moves go viral and change happens.
3. What you communicate is as essential as the channels you use. David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, offers these very sound guidelines– “To be effective, you’ve got to be civil.” Communicate you know there will be pain. “It’s good to tell a Democrat we know we have to sacrifice,” he said. “We know we need cuts. It’s good for a Republican legislator to hear that we know we’re going to have to pay more. It can’t all be fixed by cuts.”
4. Sign the petition for a more independent legislative map in Illinois. Better yet, walk around your neighborhood and collect signatures. Or donate cash to the effort. Or both. Less-politicized maps mean more competition for legislative seats and the potential for officials who are less beholden to party bosses.
5. Politicians pay attention to polls and, despite rigged districts, they still fret about winning re-election. Get involved in a campaign for a candidate you like. Fight to defeat an incumbent you don’t think is doing enough to end the gridlock.
6. Run for office yourself or help someone else. Right now. Candidates are collecting voter signatures due to the state elections board Nov. 30. It only takes a few hundred signatures to secure a ballot spot.
7. “Lawmakers need to know people care and they’re angry and they want something done,” Yepsen said. “They need to know people understand there needs to be compromise and that we have to take the cure” of cuts and taxing services or retirement income above a certain amount, or all income at a higher rate.
The bottom line is that getting involved may be the only way to get our politicians to do their job or face losing their jobs. “Nothing’s going to change by staying away,” Yepsen said.
Robert Hoyt, Ph.D.
Allied Health Professionals LLC