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Budget Cuts May Hurt State's Long Term Health

June 22, 2009

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Gov. Pat Quinn has called Illinois lawmakers into special session this week to consider raising taxes to completely fund the state budget. If elected officials don't act by July 1, the beginning of the fiscal year, programs will be cut sharply or completely eliminated for children, elders and people with disabilities. Their advocates have been taking to the streets in Chicago and plan an action for Tuesday's opening session in Springfield.

The goal is to pressure representatives and senators to raise income taxes in order to save assistance programs. While similar scenarios have occurred in the past, this time it's different because the economy is so much worse, according to the president and CEO of the Children's Home and Aid Society of Illinois, Nancy Ronquillo.

"I have been serving in this field - in the child and family service field - in Illinois for 34 years. I have never, ever seen this kind of a disaster looming."

Ronquillo says the $18 million that could be cut from children's programs would affect thousands of children living in 20 Illinois communities.

The problem is short-term thinking; cutting programs now will only cost taxpayers more money in the long run, Ronquillo explains. As an example, she points to "Redeploy Illinois," which is scheduled to be eliminated. Because it has kept children who have been arrested out of jail and has changed a lot of lives, it actually has been saving taxpayer dollars, she says.

"Instead of going to jail, these students are going to school, they're working things out with their families. The program has saved taxpayers $7.5 million."

Another program at risk pays for child care. If nothing is done by July 1, Ronquillo says, 85 percent of the working poor families who rely on child-care subsidies so they can go to work will lose that resource. Investing in key services like "Redeploy Illinois" and child care really does save money by keeping people off welfare, she stresses, and the numbers are the proof.

"In 1995, Illinois had 200,000 people, mostly mothers with dependent children, on welfare. Today, that number is about 20,000."

More information can be found at the Voices for Illinois Children website, www.voices4kids.org.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - IL