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Rauner’s anti-worker obsession is hurting kids and communities

As Illinois prepares to enter a fourth month without a budget, the Governor’s wrong-headed priorities are taking a serious toll on our neediest citizens and middle-class families.

"He has an obsession with basically going after working families and union families; he just has an obsession with it," Illinois Sen. President John Cullerton said in a recent radio interview.

Parents, social service organizations, and community members are starting to speak out. Last week, many groups held rallies across the state to call for an end to the budget impasse that is impacting critical programs that help our most vulnerable citizens. At a rally in Springfield, Rep. Stephanie Kifowit explained the concerns of parents and community members who have been impacted by cuts to Early Intervention services.

"As a mother, it pains me to see the fear and worry in the eyes of so many fellow parents who don't know whether the programs their children rely on will continue being available," Kifowit said. "These programs are necessary and help provide disabled children the best shot at a happy life."

Some social service groups say the budget impasse is creating dire circumstances and may even be contributing to deaths. Nancy Maruyama, executive director of education and community outreach for SIDS Illinois, says that some victims of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome might have been saved if her group’s parent education program hadn’t suffered cuts.

“The majority of the death reports that I receive from the medical examiner’s office, those babies are in unsafe sleep situations, and if we had been able to get out there and do this education, it’s really possible that these deaths could have been prevented,” she said. “How many babies have to die before something is done about this situation?”

Domestic violence programs and after school-teen reach programs are also among those that have been cut or shut down due to lack of funding, even though a recent study by RAND Corporation shows that early childhood interventions have been found to generate a return to society of as much as $17.07 for each dollar spent.

The budget situation is disproportionately harming vulnerable Illinoisans, but it’s impacting middle-class families too. This month, the Governor’s office announced it would stop paying health care claims for hundreds of thousands of state employees, retirees, and their families in self-funded and HMO plans, possibly forcing them to delay or forego critical medical treatment. 
But despite the effect on kids, families, and communities, Governor Rauner continues to hold the budget hostage until lawmakers give in to his personal agenda to eliminate workers’ rights. Instead, he continues to put his misplaced priorities ahead of the interests of Illinois.

While everyday men and women are hurting from the budget impasse and his $26 million dollar cuts to essential programs, the Governor continues to oppose making the wealthiest Illinoisans pay their fair share. Instead, he has given $100 million in tax breaks to corporations, claiming it will keep businesses in our state and spur job growth.
But a recent analysis by the Chicago Tribune showed that same strategy isn’t working in the case of Illinois’ EDGE (Economic Development for a Growing Economy) program. Established in 1999, EDGE has awarded millions of dollars in tax breaks to companies who agreed to grow their businesses and hire more workers – but that is not what has happened. The Tribune reported:

“In the first comprehensive analysis of 783 EDGE agreements, the Chicago Tribune found that two of every three businesses that completed the incentive program failed to maintain the number of employees they agreed to retain or hire.

“State officials can't say how many jobs have been created through the job program; nor can they say how many jobs EDGE companies have eliminated. The Tribune, however, found that 79 current or former EDGE recipients have reported eliminating 23,369 jobs through layoffs and closures since entering the program.”

The Tribune added: 

“Incentives also carry a steep public cost. Every dollar awarded to a company is a dollar not collected to fund basic public services like education, transportation and health care.” 

Clearly, "pro-business" reform measures like the Governor advocates are failing, and Illinois taxpayers are footing the bill.
Cullerton has said the painful situation created by the impasse could be resolved in just a matter of days if the Governor would simply focus on budget-related issues.

"It's just bizarre that we cannot come back and talk about the budget. He's the governor. You know, he's the one that has to work on that. And he's ignoring it," Cullerton said.

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