Illinois advocates for seniors and people with disabilities are calling on local business owners to speak out against the long-running state budget impasse and the "dangerous" spending cuts proposed by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.
Representatives from the Illinois Alliance for Retired Americans and Citizen Action Illinois, a public interest organization and a progressive political coalition, are spearheading the campaign. They are targeting organizations with GOP connections and businesses that, they say, have donated to local Republican state lawmakers.
Advocates protested and passed out leaflets this week in front of the Downers Grove Economic Development Corporation -- for which Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) and other GOP legislators are board members -- and Cassens Transport Co. in Edwardsville. The activists rallied at the Firewater Saloon in Chicago's Edison Park neighborhood Thursday afternoon, and plan to visit a Joliet pizza parlor and the Park Ridge Community Bank next week.
Their campaign comes during the tenth month of the state budget impasse. Rauner's pro-business, anti-union policy agenda is at the center of the stalemate, which has created financial chaos for higher education institutions and a range of social service providers. Home health care service providers, for example, have yet to receive over $235 million in state payments owed to them, according to SEIU* Healthcare Illinois, the union representing home care workers.
The advocates are dropping off letters to Illinois business owners, urging them to ask their state lawmakers to "defend the home health care program and the home health providers our state's senior citizens and people with disabilities depend on, and pass a responsible budget that rejects Governor Rauner's dangerous cuts."
"We know that Governor Rauner has met with a lot of these organizations and people who represent these services, and we're still not getting any results, so we thought that we would take it to the next step and ask the people who he works with everyday and the people who support the people that he works with everyday to please advocate for these senior citizens and (people with disabilities)," Citizen Action Illinois' Lynda DeLaforgue told Progress Illinois this afternoon outside the Firewater Saloon, located at 6689 N. Oliphant Ave. in Chicago.
The Firewater Saloon has provided financial contributions to two local state lawmakers, including state Rep. Michael McAuliffe (R-Chicago) state Sen. John Mulroe (D-Chicago), according to state campaign finance records.
DeLaforgue and Charlie Hogan with the Illinois Alliance for Retired Americans spoke with the restaurant's co-owner about the effects of the state budget impasse on programs like Meals on Wheels and Rauner's proposed budget cuts that would impact the Community Care Program for low-income seniors.
"I think it's a good thing to let people know what's happening, and I am totally against Rauner," said Firewater Saloon co-owner Richard Dorsch. "He's against unions. Without unions, they're the backbone of America, we wouldn't have much. The worker today is gonna lose a lot if Rauner gets his way ... I agree there is a crisis in Illinois."
DeLaforgue asked Dorsch: "Can we count on you to give the governor a call?"
"He's not gonna talk to me, but I'll give him a call. Absolutely," he replied.
DeLaforgue hopes more business owners will join their push for a "responsible" state budget solution.
"We hope we find more leaders of the community like this," she said, "because I think that's what it's gonna take to stop this impact [to social services], is the business community, the small business people getting up and saying, 'Enough is enough.' It's time to get a budget and take care of the people of Illinois."
The governor's office did not immediately return a request for comment on this story.
In an op-ed Wednesday in the State Journal-Register, Rauner pressed lawmakers to come together and work on a budget agreement.
"We have all been disappointed in the lack of action on the crises facing our state. Now is the opportunity to put partisan differences aside and work together on solutions for the people of Illinois," he wrote. "In the short term, we must address the crisis facing higher education and social services. For the long term, we must enact a balanced budget alongside job-creating reforms that grow our economy and drive more value for taxpayers."
Rauner added, "Let's start negotiations immediately -- whenever, wherever -- 24 hours a day, 7 days a week -- on a bipartisan, balanced budget with a mix of reforms, cost reductions and revenue."
GOP legislative leaders are expected to file a $1.3 billion budget bill Thursday to fund social services, including the Community Care Program. Check back with Progress Illinois as this story develops.
UPDATE (3:42 p.m.): Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly provided the following comment to Progress Illinois: "As Illinois' aging population grows, the administration is transforming how it delivers senior services by creating the Community Reinvestment Program. This will allow us to better personalize a senior's individual care and ensure the longevity of the program. The CRP is a very individualized approach that will keep seniors out of nursing homes and in their own homes and communities."
*The SEIU Illinois Council sponsors this website.