Metro-East News

Lawmakers say they’re ‘willing to make tough votes’ to pass budget

State Rep. Jay Hoffman, community leaders talk need for budget solution

State Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea; Michelle Cates, Call for Help program director; and Joy Paeth, AgeSmart CEO, talk about the need to find a solution to Illinois' budget woes.
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State Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea; Michelle Cates, Call for Help program director; and Joy Paeth, AgeSmart CEO, talk about the need to find a solution to Illinois' budget woes.

Because of the state budget impasses, the Golden Years Adult Day Care Center, was getting close to running out of money.

One day it was down to less than $100 in its bank account, said Manager Jeremy Gwinn.

Then the family-owned day care was able to keep its doors open when it won $300,000 in the lottery.

However, Gwinn doesn’t want to rely on that luck.

“It is crucial we get a budget passed, so we could stay in business to provide these services to our seniors,” Gwinn said.

Gwinn and other representatives from social service agencies stood in front of the St. Clair County Courthouse, alongside state Reps. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea, and LaToya Greenwood, D-East St. Louis. All called for an end to the state budget crisis.

“We serve many seniors in our community, and they look forward to it like you would not believe,” Gwinn said. “If they didn’t have this service to come to, many of them would go into a nursing home, and who knows, and not have the socialization they have coming to us every day.”

Gwinn called on lawmakers and the governor to adopt a budget. He said without social services, the effects would be devastating.

“You may not feel it, but I guarantee it, you know someone that will,” Gwinn said.

Hoffman said in the more than 700 days with Governor Bruce Rauner in office, there has not been a long-term spending plan for the state.

Among the agencies represented was AgeSmart Community Resources, which works with Seniors; Call for Help Inc., which works with domestic violence victims; Caritas Family Solutions; and Golden Years Adult Day Care.

We at Call for Help have spent countless hours cutting expenses and wondering what comes next, and advocating for a budget to anyone who would listen. Our staff is already spread too thin is taking time away from the survivors we support ... We cannot allow this to be our new normal.

Michelle Cates, Call for Help program director, for the sexual assault victims care unit

Michelle Cates, Call for Help program director, spoke about how the sexual assault victims care unit has been affected by the budget impasse.

“We at Call for Help have spent countless hours cutting expenses and wondering what comes next, and advocating for a budget to anyone who would listen,” Cates said. “Our staff is already spread too thin is taking time away from the survivors we support ... We cannot allow this to be our new normal.”

The unit has lost more than $140,000 during the impasse.

Cates said sexual assault survivors, both adults and children, deserve better.

“They deserve to know our services will be there for them,” she said. “Children deserve to know the abuse they have suffered is, one, not their fault, and they would have someone there dedicated to helping them discover.”

During Wednesday’s news conference, Hoffman said legislators have worked on some of the non-budgetary items that Rauner has been calling for.

Hoffman argued that in 2011, there was workers compensation reform, which led to a 30 percent decrease to workers compensation costs. He said savings haven’t led to insurance premium decreases, so the House has worked on insurance reform to insure savings are passed on to employers.

He added legislators have passed property tax freezes, procurement reforms, and economic packages with middle class tax credits and business incentives.

Hoffman said Rauner has made a tactical decision that they prefer crisis over a balanced budget, and added the crisis affects collective bargaining rights, schools and higher education.

I’m willing to say people like Bruce Rauner and his multimillion-dollar friends can pay more in taxes, while at the same time we should provide credits to the middle class, so they could have a reduction in taxes. There’s a way to do that. There’s a way to make sure the large corporations have the corporate loophole closings, so they are paying their fair share.

State Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea

“We can no longer operate in crisis,” Hoffman said. “The crisis that has been created over the last 700 days affects real people.”

Hoffman said the House did not vote on the Senate-approved budget before May 31 because Rauner indicated he would have vetoed it, and Democrats don’t have a veto proof majority in the House.

The Senate bill had several shortfalls, relied on some state employee health care savings and did not address all unpaid bills, Hoffman said.

Hoffman did say there is a need for cuts and more revenue for the state expenses and services. He added there is a lot of fat in state government that could be cut and complimented social service providers for doing more with less.

“I’m willing to say people like Bruce Rauner and his multimillion-dollar friends can pay more in taxes, while at the same time we should provide credits to the middle class, so they could have a reduction in taxes,” Hoffman said. “There’s a way to do that. There’s a way to make sure the large corporations have the corporate loophole closings, so they are paying their fair share. It’s not fair to the middle class where a person making $20,000 pays the same rate as the person making $20 million. Unfortunately, Governor Rauner and his friends and him have decided they don’t want to pay their fair share.”

“We’re willing to take the tough votes, whether it’s cuts, or making sure we have additional revenue in order to meet the demands of the state,” Hoffman added.

Speaking in Moline on Wednesday with a homeowner, Rauner said it is the homeowners who need support, and economic growth is key to fixing the state budget items. He also repeated his call for reducing layers of government.

“Our property tax burden is crushing our homeowners; it’s crushing our small business owners. It’s hurting our economy; it’s pushing our jobs out of the state,” Rauner said.

Rauner said two-year property tax freezes passed by the state senate were not enough. He prefers a permanent property tax freeze, but would settle and compromise for a four-year freeze.

We might balance our budget for one year. It will quickly be out of balance again. We won’t have the economic growth to pay off this debt that’s been put (on) us by the political machine that has been in charge of our state for 35 years.

Governor Bruce Rauner

Rauner blamed the Democratic majority in the General Assembly for not passing balanced budgets and calling for massive income and sales tax increases.

“That is not the answer,” Rauner said. “We cannot tax our way out of these problems. We need to grow, we need to grow more jobs and we need to support our working families. ... and the answer to that is property tax relief.”

Raising income and sales taxes won’t be a long-term solution, Rauner said.

“We might balance our budget for one year. It will quickly be out of balance again. We won’t have the economic growth to pay off this debt that’s been put (on) us by the political machine that has been in charge of our state for 35 years,” Rauner said.

Hoffman said services such as Meals on Wheels have been reduced, there is a danger of public schools not opening in the fall without a budget passed, and there has been damage done to higher education.

“We’re willing to meet today, we’re willing to meet tomorrow, (and) we’re willing to meet as long as it takes in order to negotiate,” Hoffman said.

Greenwood said she and Hoffman were ready and able to get a budget passed.

“This issue requires urgency,” Greenwood said. “Our local communities are suffering because of lack of budget. Governor Rauner continues to hold our state hostage while he pushes an agenda that serves the interests of big corporation. Meanwhile social service providers can’t provide service to the most vulnerable, schools may not be able to open ... and working families continue to struggle to make ends meet.”

Joseph Bustos: 618-239-2451, @JoeBReporter

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