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Final Plea For Controversial Tax Increase in Illinois Budget

June 29, 2009

CHICAGO, Ill. – As Tuesday's vote on the Illinois state budget draws near, community organizations are voicing growing fears about how the outcome could devastate public programs. A so-called "doomsday budget" is on the table, and threatens to slash spending on such services as foster care and disability programs in order to balance the estimated 11 billion dollar deficit.

Bishop Warren Freiheit of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America in central and southern Illinois agrees with the alternative approach Governor Pat Quinn has put on the table.

"As the governor suggests, let's try a temporary income tax increase to see if indeed it helps to meet the overwhelming need of the deficit that we face, without having to cut social services."

Of the many areas where drastic spending reductions could cause problems, Bishop Freiheit is most concerned about how cuts will affect foster children.

"Given the fact that Lutheran Social Services of Illinois is the largest faith-based provider of foster care in the state of Illinois at present, it's going to have devastating effects on, again, the most vulnerable, the young people in our society."

Officials for Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI) say the organization may be forced to turn away 10,000 people seeking assistance, if the budget deficit is not resolved with a tax increase. The idea of raising taxes to balance the budget is unpopular with many Democratic and Republican legislators alike.

In a last-ditch effort to voice concerns about budget cuts, LSSI and other community organizations are planning silent vigils across the state for today, and they'll host another one Tuesday night.

The organization's leaders say that every dollar the state saves now in budget cuts will eventually cost six to eight dollars down the line, because of negative effects such as incarceration and nursing care costs.

Bishop Freiheit hopes the show of solidarity will have a positive influence in Springfield.

"I feel that if people do show up and keep legislators aware of the fact that they are concerned, it will have an impact."

The vigils will take place at the State Capitol building in Springfield and the State of Illinois building in Chicago. Vigils are also scheduled to take place in Champaign, East St. Louis, Joliet and Peoria.

Aricka Flowers, Public News Service - IL