As the budget impasse in Springfield rages on, about 50 health care providers and their supporters urged a wealthy donor for Gov. Bruce Rauner to "pay his fair share" in state taxes during a Thursday morning protest.
Illinois health care providers took their concerns over the state budget impasse to the downtown Chicago offices of a wealthy campaign donor for Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner during a Thursday morning protest.
About 50 SEIU* Healthcare Illinois members, including hospital workers, home health care providers and nursing home workers, marched from the Thompson Center with their supporters to 22 W. Washington St., the headquarters of Morningstar, Inc.
The investment research firm's founder and CEO Joe Mansueto is a Rauner campaign donor and serves on the board of Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
At the office building, the protesters dropped off a letter, asking Mansueto to support "fair share" state revenue options so that vital health programs are fully funded.
"Gov. Rauner doesn't seem to be listening to us about the health needs of families," said Amber Huerta, a nursing home worker at the Jackson Square Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on Chicago's West Side. "So we're hoping that Morningstar CEO Joe Mansueto is more willing to listen to us. He's on the board of the Northwestern Memorial Hospital, so he supposedly cares about community health. But his history of political donations tells something else."
In addition to contributing to Rauner's campaign, Mansueto has donated to IllinoisGo, an independent expenditure PAC established to defend Democratic lawmakers who support "difficult, yet responsible, choices our state government needs" against "special interest attacks."
"The money he's been spending is to support the governor slashing our programs," Huerta added. "We're here today to announce that we're not going to take it anymore, because we can't afford more cuts."
Here's more from the protest, including comments from Kimberly Smith, a patient care technician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital:
This is not the first time activists have targeted Mansueto and his Morningstar offices. A separate group of activists with the "Moral Monday" campaign held a protest for "fair-share" revenues at Morningstar's office building last month.
Rauner and state Democrats, meanwhile, are still odds over a budget for the fiscal year that began July 1.
Health care workers said the standoff threatens public health services in the state.
One worker at the protest said she she was recently laid off from her job at the Roseland Community Hospital's Women, Infants and Children (WIC) center on Chicago's South Side because federal funds for the facility have been caught up in the Springfield budget fight.
However, funding for the center is expected to be released under legislation Rauner signed on Thursday allowing over $5 billion in federal dollars to flow to social services programs.
Mary Jones, who worked as a WIC breastfeeding counselor, said she hopes the center will receive the funds swiftly so operations can continue as normal and she can get her job back.
"Don't hold up funds because it's affect(ing) the health care of the community," she stressed.
The budget bill Rauner signed Thursday also includes state money for the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, or McPier, which manages Navy Pier and McCormick Place. Specifically, the funds are included for a debt-service payment McPier could not make in July because of the budget standoff.
Rauner agreed to have the McPier funding added into the bill, but objected to having additional money included for child care and early intervention programs as well as meals for seniors and cancer screenings.
House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) tried to get funding for those programs included in the legislation, but he dropped the effort after Rauner threatened to veto the federal funding legislation if it contained the additional spending.
Madigan issued this statement on Thursday after Rauner signed the federal funding bill:
Governor Rauner's piecemeal approach to federally funded programs creates more hardship and confusing disruptions. A few weeks ago, he vetoed all federally funded program spending. Now he cherry picks and says 'no' to state funding for critically needed services like breast and cervical cancer screenings, assistance for children with development disabilities and meals for the elderly. He also reversed course with the decision to support spending state money to pay Chicago's McCormick Place bankers.
"The governor's office called the inclusion of funding for these programs a 'poison pill,' and more than one House Republican made similar comments on the House floor, even going so far as to say these programs were 'extra nonsense' that 'got in the way' while they insisted on spending additional state money to ensure McCormick Place's bankers get paid. I take great exception to those disparaging comments, as do the women, children and elderly who would have benefitted from the state dollars House Democrats supported.
A Rauner spokesman said the governor OK'ed the federal funding bill "because it will help those in need without adding to the state's budget deficit."
For his part, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the legislation "ensures that the operations at Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, an economic engine in Chicago, are funded."
"It also ensures that we leave no federal dollars on the table which can support our residents," he added. "I want to thank the legislative leaders and the governor for taking action on this bill to support our economy and our residents, and I remain hopeful for continued collaboration in addressing the fiscal challenges facing our state."
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