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Rally for the 'Common Good' Takes Issue with IL Budget Cuts

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 By Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL, Contact
May 6, 2009

Springfield, IL – There'll be a packed crowd in the State Capitol rotunda today, with people from almost 50 organizations joining together for the "Rally for the Common Good," urging legislators and Governor Pan Quinn to reconsider budget cuts to the state's human-care organizations.

Organizers say the state's failure to maintain a strong public infrastructure is endangering public health and safety, and undermining efforts to turn the economy around.

Jack Kaplan, legislative director with the United Way of Illinois, says human services are very much a critical part of the public infrastructure.

"Just like bridges, roads, schools – we have to have a healthy and well-maintained, well-managed human services structure."

One-third of Illinoisians under 65 have been without health insurance coverage for two years. Kaplan says that's just one problem facing residents, as communities see rising unemployment, increased food bank usage, and continued educational disparities.

"It is essential that the state hold the line and maintain current funding for human service programs in light of that increased demand that the community is facing."

Those taking part in today's event include faith-based organizations, citizens' groups and organizations that help care for the sick, those in the 65-plus set, people with disabilities, and families with children.

Bishop Warren Freiheit with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Central-Southern Illinois Synod says investing in human-care programs now helps prevent much more expensive public problems down the road.

"If we can supply our social services with the monies necessary to train, educate, feed and maintain basic lifestyles, ultimately it's quite a savings for the state of Illinois."

He says every dollar invested in human-care programs returns about seven dollars to taxpayers.

With a budget deficit in the range of $11 billion, Governor Quinn is proposing $78 million in cuts to human service programs, as well as other cuts to balance the bottom line. Jack Kaplan and others say state leaders should evaluate the tax code and look for ways to generate more revenue instead of cutting essential programs. The Governor has already suggested a plan to raise state income taxes 50 percent.

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