Representatives of area organizations with their livelihoods on the line gathered Tuesday in Carbondale to send a united message: It’s time for Illinois leaders to pass a budget and, in the words of one, “do their duty as sworn public servants.”
“It’s getting to be an old story,” said Randy Osborn, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Carbondale. “There’s no shortage of evidence that this situation is causing possibly irreversible damage to people throughout the state of Illinois.”
Osborn and others spoke at the Carbondale Civic Center Tuesday, the day before Gov. Bruce Rauner’s State of the State Address, to implore Rauner and lawmakers to reach a deal and end a budget impasse that has stretched on since last July. The event was organized by the Responsible Budget Coalition, a group of more than 200 organizations concerned about state budget and tax issues.
In the wake of the impasse, many said, their organizations have been forced to cut services and slash jobs, and the lack of any further movement in Springfield has them wondering if the problem will manifest into a crisis with no viable solution.
“With each week that passes, we are being forced to lay off staff and limit services,” said Miriam Link-Mullison, director of the Jackson County Health Department. “We won’t have the strong public health system we need to protect our families.”
Rauner and legislators remain stalled on a budget, with Democratic leaders signaling the need for an income tax increase to fund the state’s increasing liabilities. Rauner has refused to sign any budget that doesn’t include some of his proposed reforms, including measures aimed at weakening collective bargaining rights and workers’ compensation.
While some programs, including schools, have been funded and other services have continued to receive money via court orders, social services, higher education and other groups have found themselves in an increasingly precarious position. Now, some observers are signaling that a budget compromise might not even be possible until after this fall’s election — almost 18 months after the impasse began.
Brandi Husch, the student trustee at John A. Logan College, stressed that the financial troubles inflicted on the college as a result of the budget issue inevitably will trickle down to other area businesses.
“The budget impasse currently is and will continue to impact the economy of the entire state,” Husch said.
Carbondale Mayor Mike Henry said the impasse has become inexcusable, adding that it is no longer a simple partisan disagreement.
“It’s just unconscionable for this state to be doing what it’s doing,” Henry said. “It’s just horrible. This needs to get taken care of. This isn’t Republican or Democrat. They’re both in it. There’s enough guilt to go around.”
Also speaking at Tuesday’s event were Jesslyn Jobe, Healthy Families coordinator for Shawnee Health Service; and Shanikka Love and Jennifer Basten, two mothers in the Healthy Families program.