Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Conversation starters

By Jamey Dunn

A group of female lawmakers and social services leaders called on legislators and Gov. Pat Quinn today to raise revenues and stop cuts to education and social services, and a think tank released a plan that its representatives say will balance the budget without a tax increase.

Kathy Ryg, president of Voices for Illinois Children, said cuts in state funding disproportionately affect women and children. “Women and children are the primary beneficiaries of these programs, which we know are proven to work.”

Her group supports the tax increase the Senate passed last session. Ryg said the organization would discourage support for Quinn’s recent budget proposal because it would not fully fund social services or education. However, she said the group does not intend to directly oppose the plan. “Our goal is not to say [HB 174] is the only answer.”

Ryg added that the group wants encourage a dialogue about the budget and equitable taxes and school funding.

“What we are sacrificing is the vulnerable people of our state who need those services to live. What we are sacrificing is the children of our state, and what we are sacrificing is the future of our state,” said Ann Ford, executive director of the Illinois Network of Centers for Independent Living.

The Illinois Policy Institute is also trying to jump into the budget conversation. The research group, “dedicated to free market principles” released an alternative to Quinn’s budget that its leaders say will eliminate the deficit without a tax increase.

The priorities of the group’s budget are to pay the state’s pension obligation and the backlog of overdue bills. The plan proposes its biggest cuts in education, health care and human services.

John Tillman, chief operating officer of the Illinois Policy Institute, called on local governments to post their budgets online and said he is skeptical that schools laying off teachers could not make cuts elsewhere instead.

"We put teachers before administrators, roads before expansive rail proposals and public safety before public art. These are not easy decisions, but they must be made," Tillman said.

He encouraged citizens to use a spreadsheet on the organization's Web page to create a budget based on $27 billion in spending to gain perspective on how difficult the choices for cuts are.


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