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IL Unions, Low-Income Advocates Want More from Rauner

Low-income and workers' rights groups say Gov. Bruce Rauner's budget address is more of the same. (iStockphoto)
Low-income and workers' rights groups say Gov. Bruce Rauner's budget address is more of the same. (iStockphoto)
February 18, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Some unions, health-care workers and low-income advocacy groups are saying Gov. Bruce Rauner's second budget address is more of the same.

As the state continues a historic budget battle, social service and higher-education programs have seen huge cuts. Activists such as Toby Chow, co-chairman of Fair Economy Illinois, says the governor's continued unwillingness to look at new revenue sources is hurting the state's most vulnerable residents.

"The governor has once again made it very clear that he just doesn't care about poor people in the state of Illinois. I think that he made it clear again that his interests are with the billionaire class and large corporations," says Chow.

During his speech, Rauner said he will make early-education funding a priority, with a $75 million boost. However, it remains to be seen if the governor and lawmakers will come to an agreement on a budget.

One of the lingering questions is whether or not the legislature and governor will create a two-year budget, or deal with the current and next year's budgets separately.

In the meantime, James Muhammad, spokesman for SEIU Healthcare Illinois, one of the state's largest health-care workers' unions, says the governor is turning a blind eye to people with real needs.

"Workers are losing their jobs," says Muhammad. "Social agencies are closing. Colleges are threatening to close. Children are not receiving child care. The list goes on and on."

Chow says his group will be working with state lawmakers on bills that could bring in lots of new money to the state without raising taxes on the lowest earners.

"We want a bill closing corporate tax loopholes that could bring up to $2 billion in additional revenue," says Chow. "The LaSalle Street tax, which is a small tax on financial transactions, that could bring in $10 billion to $12 billion of additional revenue."

Gov. Rauner, however, says he will not consider new revenue options until the state enacts "structural reforms to grow more jobs."

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - IL