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Activists to Release IL Budget Plan at "Moral Monday" Protest

As the Illinois budget impasse drags on, a group of activists releases its own budget plan, which the group says would put "people first." (Moral Mondays Illinois)
As the Illinois budget impasse drags on, a group of activists releases its own budget plan, which the group says would put "people first." (Moral Mondays Illinois)
May 9, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - A group of Illinois urban and rural public-policy activists holds a protest in Chicago today, to unveil what it calls a "People and Planet First Budget."

Illinois is the only state operating without a budget for the current year.

The activist group Fair Economy Illinois argues the state needs new revenue as vital public services continue to lose funding.

Volunteer Ann Marie Cunningham says the new budget alternative would bring in about $23 billion, partly from new taxes on corporations and the state's top earners.

"We have been doing 'Moral Mondays' to bring to light the fact people are hurting, because we do not have a budget," says Cunningham. "Not having enough food, not having housing."

State lawmakers are still mired in a nearly year-long budget impasse, but a bipartisan group is trying to work out a compromise plan.

Today's budget protest takes place at noon at the Federal Plaza in Chicago.

Some of the new revenue ideas in Fair Economy Illinois' budget include what it's calling a "LaSalle Street Tax," a reference to Chicago's financial district.

Cunningham says it would raise about $12 billion for state services by enacting a small tax on financial trades of such assets as stocks and bonds.

"You pay taxes on milk and bread, and yet there are thousands of transactions every day at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the Board of Trade, and those exchanges are never taxed," she says.

But critics of the financial-transaction tax, including some economists, argue that at worst, that idea could drive the financial industry out of the state altogether.

And Gov. Bruce Rauner has said he will not consider any new revenue options unless lawmakers agree to parts of his controversial "Turnaround Agenda," which includes business-friendly changes to union bargaining rules.

Still, Cunningham argues legislators should focus on finding new sources of funding, to shore up state colleges, healthcare and human services.

"This is about revenue and not about cuts," says Cunningham. "The money is there, but the leaders in Springfield are not calling that money forth."

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - IL