Two years ago, Tara Miller’s now 4-year-old daughter, Destiny, was diagnosed with autism. Destiny had no functional speech, wasn’t able to say if she was hungry, if she was tired, or if she was hurt, and would avoid social interactions.
“I felt so alone, and even though she couldn’t tell me herself, I know my daughter felt more alone than me,” Miller, an East Alton resident, said through tears.
Miller and her daughter received services and resources at an autism center in Maryville, such as pictures to help Destiny communicate with others.
“She’s able to ask me for help, … and able to ask me for things she needs and wants,” Miller said. “She can speak to anybody who has a set of eyes and can look at a picture.”
For Miller, if the help she and Destiny receive through The Autism Program of Illinois is cut, it would be detrimental.
“If the funds for TAP are cut, or if there is a long budget stalemate, the results of it is your taking my child’s voice away,” Miller said. “She finally is able to speak, the regression will be unmeasurable, and I, as a mother, will be watching her disappear back into herself.”
Miller was one of the speakers along with State Reps. Dan Beiser, D-Alton, Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea, and Eddie Lee Jackson, D-East St. Louis, and state Sens. Bill Haine, D-Alton, and James Clayborne, D-Belleville, who discussed the effects the state’s proposed budget cuts will have on families during a news conference Monday afternoon.
They spoke in front of a large crowd packed in a room at the Developmental Disability Services of the Metro East in Belleville.
The Democratically-controlled General Assembly and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner are in a stalemate over how to balance the state’s 2016 fiscal year budget. Without a budget in place by July 1, state workers, Medicaid providers and state contractors can’t be paid.
Rauner has proposed a budget that eliminates or reduces services that provide job training and child care, enhance educational opportunities and ensure medical care. Additionally, the proposed budget calls for the elimination of home-energy assistance programs for families.
“What’s most important, is fundamentally core beliefs about helping those who are most vulnerable in our society, about helping those have health care and quality health care in our communities, promoting our programs that are very important to our youth, our young adults, as well as those programs that improve quality of life,” Clayborne said.
He also criticized Rauner’s television ad blitz meant to be critical of Democratic lawmakers who have majorities in both houses of the General Assembly.
“Government is about compromise. We’ve said all along, we’re willing to come to the table and find common ground on some issues,” Clayborne said. “There are some issues we’re fundamentally not going to compromise on. We’re not going to compromise on the most vulnerable.”
Ahead of the news conference, Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly in a statement said the metro-east Democrats care more about preserving political loyalties.
“(Speaker) Mike Madigan along with his allies Reps. Beiser, ..., Hoffman and Jackson, and Sens. Haine and Clayborne, are more interested in protecting the political class rather than fighting for the middle class,” Kelly said. “They have passed another phony budget that is $4 billion out of balance while refusing to enact any of Gov. Rauner’s structural changes like lawsuit reform, freezing property taxes and term limits which could help turn our state around.”
Hoffman again called for a balanced approach when dealing with the budget issues, which he says would fairly represent the middle class.
“We need to solve this budget in a balanced approach, which would include spending reductions, it has to happen… and would also include some sort of revenue,” Hoffman said. “That’s a balanced approach. That’s a reasonable approach.”
He said the General Assembly agreed on a spending plan that includes more than $400 million cuts in Medicaid and hundreds of millions cut by rooting out fraud and abuse in Medicaid.
Hoffman criticized parts of Rauner’s “Turn Around Illinois” agenda.
“Now is the time we should be looking to the future. In my mind taking away the right of the middle class to collectively bargain, to join their forces together in order to make a difference,” he said. “He wants the right to work for less in Illinois.”
Hoffman also defended the prevailing wage.
“To me, a rising tide, lifts all boats,” Hoffman said. “When you reduce the prevailing wage, which is a base amount you’re going to get paid on public works projects, then you’re reducing the middle class.”
Jackson said he agreed a balanced approach to the budget is necessary.
“We can’t reduce to the point that it’s going to be detrimental to the middle class, our seniors and our most vulnerable population,” Jackson said. “We will work through the summer to make sure we come up with a budget that is beneficial to all of us.”
Natalie Baity, of East St. Louis, spoke about the importance of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance program. Possible state cuts could affect about 1,300 people in St. Clair County.
“People won’t even turn on the electricity or their air conditioning, (because of) the fear their bills will go up,” Baity said. “We need this assistance; we need it dearly.”
Republican elected officials from the metro-east did chime in on the news conferences taking place across the state.
“The press conferences held throughout the state by my Democrat colleagues discussing proposed budget cuts is pure hogwash,” said State Rep. Charlie Meier, R-Okawville. “My Democrat colleagues control the budget process in Springfield. They have the votes to decide who gets cut and how much they get cut. Instead, we should be talking about the root of Illinois’ fiscal problems — overspending and record job loss.
“Employers and not-for-profits are paying the price of high workers’ compensation rates and feeling the burden of high insurance costs because of a lack of lawsuit abuse reform,” Meier said. “If we solve the issue of record job loss, Illinois can create more jobs, which would result in more revenue for our state budget.”
More concern over proposed cuts
Granite city residents and home and child care workers are scheduled to speak out against proposed cuts at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at 2100 Madison Ave. in Granite City.