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Illinois Unpaid Bills to Skyrocket; Groups Rally for Budget Fix

April 21, 2010

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - As the State of Illinois' unpaid bills are expected to exceed $5.5 billion by June, teachers are losing jobs and people who need counseling are being turned away from treatment centers because of staff cutbacks. Today, protesters rally once again at the Capitol to restate their call for a budget that includes a tax increase.

Diana Martinez will be there. Martinez, who received state-funded addiction treatment through Lutheran Social Services of Illinois, is fully employed today and calls herself a "better role model" for her three children. She is blunt about where she would be without that program.

"Honestly, I would be dead. Today, I know how to be a mother, a daughter, and a sister."

Last week, House Speaker Mike Madigan said the budget bill is still under review and that he believes Americans are not ready for tax increases yet. Members of the Responsible Budget Coalition say inaction will mean further layoffs in state government and education.

Anders Lindall, a spokesman for the government workers' union AFSCME Illinois, says lawmakers need to pass a comprehensive budget bill because the results of inaction are dire.

"Ten of thousands of jobs are lost, teachers are laid off, school programs shut down; we're talking about the elimination of band, of sports, of all-day kindergarten. Police are taken off our streets..."

The State Comptroller says the state is running about six months behind on its bills. Lawmakers are expected to adjourn on May 7.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - IL