At one point the crowd of teachers, public employees and union
workers from across the state chanted for lawmakers to raise their
taxes and to not leave Springfield until the legislature had
approved some type of tax increase.
Rally goers supported both
Gov. Pat Quinn's 33 percent income tax increase plan and a different
tax hike that passed the Illinois Senate last year but has since
been stalled in the House.
But it was the personal stories from individuals that told the
actual story behind the budget numbers.
Mary Lang took the day off from her classroom at Belvidere
Central Middle School. She said the lack of state money is having an
impact on local schools.
Lang said Belvidere has written its budget for the next school
year, and there are huge gaps in the spending plan.
"We had 57 teachers that were (laid off); 37 of them have already
been called back," Lang said. "But our district is waiting to hear
how much money they'll be getting from the state (in terms of) the
foundation level. And that foundation level is supposed to be at
least $450 less than what we received this year."
Fellow Belvidere teacher Kendra Asbury said that kind of
uncertainty is tough on young teachers. She said not everyone who
got a pink slip this spring will come back next fall, even if
there's money to pay them.
"It's taking a huge toll on teachers, especially new teachers,"
Asbury said. "Morale is low. It's hard to keep those competent
people, even in our universities, if people know those jobs aren't
Southern Illinois teacher Larry Luna got angry at the idea that
there is plenty of fat to cut from school payrolls.
Luna guesses there may be fat at some schools, but he said
Harrisburg High School is held together with "tape and baling wire,"
and there isn't any extra money to be found.
"I don't make a big salary," Luna said. "Our superintendent makes
half to a third of some of these numbers that I've seen; our
teachers make a half to a third of these big salaries that I've
seen. They need to come down to Harrisburg and look on our rolls and
check in our books, because we don't make those big figures."
The story was the same from human service providers who say the
state's problems more directly affect them.
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Patricia Edwards is a home health care worker from Peoria. She takes
care of a few senior citizens, but she said that even with steady
work, she's had to worry about her paycheck -- so much so that her
retired husband recently went back to work.
"I said, 'I'm sorry, I hate to ask you to do this -- I know you
just retired in November -- but you're going to need to find a
full-time job, or else we're going to lose everything.'"
Christina Rios from Moline said she'd face a similar choice if
state funding for her child care runs out.
Rios is a student who also works as a waitress, but she said
she'd have to stay home with her children if her day care closes.
"The child care for my youngest son would be $215 a week," Rios
said. "I'd have to drop out of school, and I don't make enough money
right now to pay for quality care. If I was to continue working, I'd
have to use an underground baby sitter."
Rios' child care provider, Skip Along Day Care in Moline,
believes that is a real possibility.
Angie Kendall with Skip Along said that if the state cuts
funding, or delays payments any longer, it would put a lot of people
into Rios' situation.
"At our center alone we have 225 children. About 90 percent of
them are on some sort of funding," Kendall said. "People need these
Kendall said the state can either pay for early childhood
education or pay for other services down the road.
But the stories are not new to lawmakers, who said they've been
hearing the same thing for months, if not years. None of the
thousands at the statehouse rally had an answer for what will happen
if the legislature does not raise taxes.
Lawmakers have been saying for months they doubt they'll even
vote on a tax hike until after the November election.
Statehouse News; By BENJAMIN YOUNT]