Carrying sings that read, "Rauner's Cuts Hurt Women" a group of community activists and Chicago-area elected officials staged a demonstration in the Loop on Thursday, pushing back against budget cuts outlined in Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's 2016 budget proposal.
"If all we do is cut, cut, cut, all we get is blood, blood, blood. We will have the blood of innocent people running down the streets," said Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st).
Boykin was one of roughly 50 participants in the press conference and demonstration "Rauner Says"--mimicked after the game "Simon Says"--outside the Thompson Center. The game attempted to demonstrate how Rauner's proposed budget cuts would negatively impact women and low-income Illinoisans.
Faced with a $6 billion budget deficit next fiscal year, which begins July 1, Rauner's "turnaround" budget proposal seeks to significantly cut funding from a range of budgetary items, including $1.5 billion from Medicaid and $400 million from higher education. The budget proposal also calls for reducing Department of Human Services (DHS) spending by more than $500 million.
Democrats have squared off with Republican over Rauner's proposal as lawmakers try to pass a state budget and spending plan before the legislative session ends May 31.
"It is disrespectful and almost immoral for you to think that you can balance a budget by cutting services that are vital to our communities," said Chicago Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th).
Sawyer was one of several local politicians to call on members of the Illinois General Assembly to find new revenue options for the state, such as a millionaire tax, which calls for a 3 percent tax to be levied on all income over $1 million. Illinois voters overwhelmingly approved the millionaire tax via a non-binding ballot referendum in the November election.
"When they decide to cut services and not implement a simple tax for those who are most able to support it - millionaires - an extra $30,00 for them, they might not be able to buy two buildings instead of one," Sawyer said.
Spearheaded by House Speaker Michael Madigan, the Illinois millionaire tax failed to get enough votes to pass through the General Assembly last week. The proposal, which would require a change in the Illinois Constitution, fell short of the 71 votes needed in the House. Lawmakers that did not support the tax included State Reps. Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago), Jack Franks (D-Marengo) and Scott Drury (D-Highwood).
As an option for new state revenues, Chicago Ald. John Arena (45th) on Thursday called for a graduated income tax, which would implement higher tax rates for those with higher income levels, and lower rates for people who take home less money.
"Let's change the conversation to revenue, not cuts," Arena said. "A fair tax in Illinois will bring in billions of dollars to make sure we're giving services where they need to be given, to women, to children and the disabled."
Here's more from Arena and other speakers at the Thursday rally:
One of the DHS programs on the chopping block is the Illinois Home Services program, which connects physically disabled people younger than 60 to personal assistants who come to their homes. By changing the eligibility criteria for the program, Rauner's plan slashes $110 million from that support system.
Susan Aarup, an organizer with Chicago ADAPT who is in a wheelchair, said she depends on the Home Services program to live independently.
"If these cuts go through, there's a very strong possibility that I will be forced to live in a nursing home," Aarup said, calling the Home Services program her "lifeline."
"I'm imploring Governor Rauner, please do not cut child care or home services or any other programs," she said. "Balance the budget by raising revenue, not by cutting services on our backs."
Roshoundria Leach, who has worked as a home care provider for eight years through DHS' Department of Rehabilitation Services, said she is worried about the future of her job.
"Without people like us, to help people with disabilities, they won't be able to remain in their homes," Leach said. "Rauner has got to think about how these cuts are affecting people. This is my job, I don't know how I would live without it."
Chicago Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) said the budget speaks to the state's values.
"Are you going to ask the rich to pay their fair share, just like the rest of us do? Or are you going to cut services to people with disabilities? Are you going to cut services to these children? And are you going to deny a job and an income to people that work in these jobs? Governor Rauner, don't send people with disabilities back into facilities," Ramirez-Rosa said.
"Governor Rauner, don't send these women out of the workforce. Governor Rauner, choose revenue, choose the families that are pleading with you today to stand up with them and be the champion that you promised you would be," the newly-elected alderman added.