By J. Coyden Palmer, Chicago Crusader
As families celebrate the holidays and ask for good fortune in the New Year, thousands of Illinois families are on edge as state lawmakers and Governor Bruce Rauner continue to be at odds over a budget.
In the meantime, the state’s bills are continuing to pile up. As the bills mount, important social services and funding for Illinois school districts are again being threatened, which is putting many inner-city Blacks at risk. What is most concerning for many families is that there seems to be no remedy in sight.
“I mean seriously, what the hell are they doing? Don’t they realize people are on the verge of going homeless and facing financial death because of this peeing contest between the Governor and legislators,” said an animated Linda James. Her two children attend a home child care facility that will close at the end of the year because it is losing state funding. “I don’t know what I’m going to do next. I’m going to have to scramble to find someone to watch my kids when I’m at work. Their dad died in a car accident, so I’m all alone and it is really hard trying to make it in this world without some sort of government assistance.”
Earlier this week, Rauner went public and said if there are enough Democrats willing to break with Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, progress on the budget could be made. The divide and conquer technique he is attempting to use is resonating with many citizens who see the powerful Democrat Madigan as a big problem with politics in the state and with others who just want to see programs funded.
“I don’t care what tactics are used at this point as long as they fund these social programs that are vital to many of the most at risk people,” said Carolyn Madison, whose mother-in-law uses the services of a homecare worker provided by the state. “I don’t think they understand or even worse, don’t care about the gravity of their stupid political fights. I know people who are leaving Illinois because they can no longer afford to stay and the social services provided in other states are better.”
Adding fuel to the fire a group of Democrats filed a suit earlier this month against former Republican Comptroller Leslie Munger, who last spring stopped paying the lawmakers because there was no budget.
The state currently has 126,000 unpaid bills worth more than $10.3 billion. Munger’s successor, Democrat Susan Mendoza, said she plans to continue not paying the lawmakers, but said she would relent if a court ordered her to do so.
The plaintiffs claim that what the Comptroller’s office is doing is illegal. But Munger said she does not see it that way and that the debt the state is in, is real and the lawmakers need to “tough it out.”
“They just want preferential treatment while other state workers who also are not getting paid are not filing lawsuits,” Munger said. “There are just no words for my disgust and disappointment.”
Governor Rauner added the lawsuit was “frivolous.” He said instead of filing lawsuits, lawmakers should be putting human services above themselves and focusing on passing a balanced budget with reforms that will create jobs.
But the public’s ire towards the lawmakers is just part of it. Most people say Governor Rauner is just as bad. They say the Governor is playing a high-risk game of political poker by putting the state in a worse position than when he was elected. And the consequences could be that he will be a one-term governor. African Americans who overwhelmingly did not vote for Rauner say while they were not expecting much from him, they did not believe they would be in this position.
“I understood why many Black people voted for Rauner because Quinn took us for granted as did Hillary Clinton,” said James Harris of the South Side. “But this guy is trying to not fund the Chicago Public Schools, day care workers and other social services that our community really needs. He’s gone in with this corporate takeover model that does not work when you are a public servant. I will be voting against him no matter who he is running against.”
Harris added that Black ministers like Corey Brooks (New Beginnings) and James Meeks (House of Hope) who campaigned for Rauner have not spoken out publicly against any of his actions and seem to have little influence over his policies or decisions. Harris said while he believes there needs to be African American supporters on both sides of the aisle, if it really does not benefit the community, then what difference does it make?
Lawmakers could again pass an emergency stop-gap budget when they return to Springfield in January. But even if that happens, the funding would be based off 2015 funding numbers. Economists say in the meantime inflation continues to rise and the longer Illinois takes to pass a budget the worse the debt will become.