PI Original Ellyn Fortino Monday July 13th, 2015, 3:55pm

'Moral Monday' Activists Engage In Civil Disobedience To Protest State Budget Cuts (VIDEO)

Six "Moral Monday" activists with Fair Economy Illinois participated in civil disobedience during a Monday morning protest in Chicago against state budget cuts. The "fair-share" revenue advocates brought their protest to the downtown office building of Morningstar, an investment research firm whose CEO is a wealthy Rauner donor.

Illinois activists protesting against state budget cuts targeted yet another wealthy donor of Gov. Bruce Rauner's during a Monday morning protest in Chicago.

At the "Moral Monday" demonstration, over 100 protesters with Fair Economy Illinois, a group that supports "fair-share" state revenue options over deep budget cuts, stormed the lobby of 22 W. Washington St., the headquarters of Morningstar, Inc. 

The investment research firm's founder and CEO Joe Mansueto is a Rauner campaign donor. He has also contributed $500,000 to the Illinoisans for Growth and Opportunity (IllinoisGO) independent expenditure PAC. The committee was established to "defend Democratic lawmakers who have demonstrated support for the difficult, yet responsible, choices our state government needs and protect lawmakers from special interest attacks that may result." 

Fair Economy Illinois leaders argue that the purpose of the IllinoisGO PAC is to "bully" state Democratic lawmakers "into supporting budget cuts and protecting tax loopholes for the wealthy."

While in the lobby of Morningstar's building, activists held a speak-out and toted signs reading, "Some cuts don't heal" and "Stop the chop." The group yelled, "Stand up! Get down! Corporate greed get out of town!"

Among those who spoke in the lobby was Nora Handler, an advocate for people living with disabilities.

"Thanks to Gov. Rauner and his billionaire friends, we are facing huge cuts to human services," said Handler, also with The People's Lobby. "These are cuts that will be devastating to people with disabilities and their families who depend on state-funded services ... The politicians who are proposing (these cuts) need to know that this is morally wrong. This is socially unjust, and this is a civil rights issue. Stop using our family members and friends as pawns in this cruel game and do the right thing."

Chicago police later warned the activists that if they did not leave they lobby, they would face arrest. Six activists refused to leave the lobby, and were ultimately issued citations by police for trespassing. 

Shoshanna Coalson was one of the six activists who was cited during the act of civil disobedience. 

Asked why she risked arrest, Coalson said, "There was a lot of talk about the budget cuts until the government shut down, and now no one's talking about the fact that people aren't receiving their social services and (support) they need for essential things."

Tanya Watkins, another activist who received a citation, added that corporations and the wealthy in Illinois should pay their "fair share" in taxes.

"There are so many corporate tax loopholes that keep corporations from even paying taxes at all," she said. "So when it comes down to balancing the budget, who has to make that up? The working people."

Here's more from today's protest:

The demonstration, which comes amid the ongoing budget impasse in Springfield, is the third "Moral Monday" protest in recent weeks that has targeted Rauner's wealthy donors. Fair Economy Illinois has also taken aim at Citadel CEO Ken Griffin and billionaire investor Sam Zell.

Illinois entered the new fiscal year on July 1 without a budget in place. 

The state faces a $6 billion budget deficit in the current fiscal year, due mostly to the rollback of the 2011 temporary income tax hike. Democrats want to see that budget hole closed with a combination of cuts and new revenues. Rauner -- whose fiscal plan calls for no new revenues and proposes deep cuts to a range of programs and services -- vetoed most of the Democrat-passed legislative budget proposal due to its $4 billion shortfall. Rauner did sign a budget bill for K-12 and early childhood education, meaning schools will open on time if the budget stalemate continues.

As part of budget negotiations, Rauner wants "structural reforms" adopted, like workers' compensation changes, tort reform and a property tax freeze, before new revenues are considered. Democrats, however, have described Rauner's proposals as extreme and consider them to be non-budgetary issues.

While Democratic leaders and the governor continue to tussle over a new spending plan, temporary budget cuts put forward by the Rauner administration have begun to target various programs and services, including the Child Care Assistance Program, as a result of there being no agreed-upon spending plan. 

To avert deep budget cuts, Fair Economy Illinois supports "fair-share" revenue solutions, including a graduated income tax, a financial transaction tax and the closure of corporate tax "loopholes."

"Rauner and his billionaire friends would have us believe that these cuts are necessary," Fair Economy Illinois leader Toby Chow said outside the Thompson Center before the group marched to the Morningstar building. "We are told that there is no alternative. We're told that there's no choice. That the state just doesn't have any money. But these are lies. The wealthiest residents in the state of Illinois pay far less than their fair share, and two-thirds of the corporations that do business in Illinois pay nothing in corporate income taxes to the state, and that aint right."


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