Governor Bruce Rauner will hold his second State of the State Address today, and ahead of this event, many community avtivists are calling attention to how the Illinois budget impasse is affecting their lives. Illinois is about to enter its eighth month without a budget, which has led to severe cutbacks for many state services. Teen Reach, a statewide after-school program, has seen more than a dozen sites shut down due to lack of state funding. Chicagoan Rosalina Chavez says she and her 12-year old son James relied on the Teen Reach program at their local elementary school until it was shut down last year.
"It is very hard for me to be at work and knowing that my son has to walk five blocks in not such a good neighborhood, and constantly calling him to see if he made it home OK."
Rosaline Chavez, Chicago Resident
Community groups, including the Grassroots Collaborative, are asking Governor Rauner and the General Assembly to take responsibility for ending the impasse and restoring funding for these programs. Also this week, the Pew Chartiable Trusts published its "State of the State" series, which focuses on local policy fixes. Scott Greenberger with Pew says in addition to social services cuts, one of Illinois' biggest issues is a lack of funding for higher education.
"Really, there's going to be a lot of pressure on Governor Rauner and legislators to figure something out. It's an issue that affects so many thousands of Illinois families who have children in the public colleges and universities."
Scott Greenberger, Pew Charitable Trust
According to the local wathcdog group Reboot Illinois, in Rauner's first year in office, the higher education budget was slashed by almost half a billion dollars; money that has sat unused since last July due to the budget impasse. People like Rosaline Chavez are not alone. There are many with similar situations, and even more being affected in different ways by this budget impasse. Chavez is urging Governor Rauner to reconsider his suspension of millions of dollars in grats to social services, after-school, and public health programs.
"He needs to realize that I'm not the only one; there's plenty of working parents that don't have a place for their kids to go to, after school. And child care is very expensive; we cannot afford it, either."
-Rosalina Chavez, Chicago Resident