Gov. Bruce Rauner is a "budget bully," according to a group of child care advocates and Illinois legislators who rallied in Chicago on Monday against the state's ongoing budget impasse and changes to the state's Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP).
"Ladies and gentlemen, this governor is out of control," said state Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago). "There are certain things that you're not supposed to mess with. You're not supposed to mess with my child."
Flowers joined other members of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus and Child Care Advocates United, an association of about 300 Illinois child care providers, at a rally outside of the Thompson Center at 100 W. Randolph St.
As they called on Rauner to find additional revenue to pass a balanced budget, the ralliers decried new CCAP eligibility requirements that went into effect after the state entered the 2016 fiscal year on July 1 without a spending plan.
"The governor wants to balance the budget off of poor people, off of handicapped people, off of the mentally ill, ladies and gentlemen, he wants to balance the budget off our babies," Flowers said to a crowd of hundreds who chanted about the need for state funding for social service programs.
The state faces a $6 billion budget deficit in the current fiscal year, due in part 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 budget passed by state legislators 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.
While Democratic leaders in the Illinois General Assembly and the governor continue their standoff, the Rauner administration has put forward $820 million in spending reductions that target various programs, including CCAP.
Among other CCAP changes that took effect July 1, monthly parent co-pays increased and eligibility requirements for new applicants were revised.
"We elected this man into office and one of the first things that he does to us and our children, he says that 'you all can not have child care,'" said Nakisha Hobbs, co-founder of the Chicago-based It Takes a Village Early Learning Center and a Child Care Advocates United steering committee member. "He has cut child care for 90 percent of working families in the state of Illinois. It is never ok to attack families, working mothers, working fathers, people who are getting up every day going to work."
According to the Department of Human Services, a new CCAP applicant has to meet one of these criteria to be eligible for the program: a Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) recipient; a teen parent enrolled full-time in elementary or high school or GED classes; from a family with a special needs child; or a working family with a monthly income of up to 50 percent of the federal poverty level, a decrease from up to 185 percent of the poverty level.
Under the new income requirements, a family of two cannot earn more than $664 a month to qualify for CCAP. Before July 1, a two-person family could qualify for the program while still earning about $2,400 a month.
Organizers at Monday's rally estimate that some 2,000 CCAP applicants have been turned away from the program since July 1.
"We have a type of venture capitalist called a vulture capitalist in Governor Rauner," said state Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago). "And what that means, he believes that his election was a mandate to turnaround Illinois, as if he purchased a corporation. So that means he's going to cut, slash and gut all programs that the most vulnerable in society depend on. So, let's remind him that this is a democracy."
Collins was a co-sponsor of legislation that passed in the Senate last Wednesday that aims to restore funding and the original eligibility requirements to CCAP. The bill, SB 570, passed, with 37 "yeas" to seven "nays," the latter of which all came from Republicans. Nine legislators voted "present." The bill has now moved onto the House, where it has received five sponsors, all of whom are Democrats.
"The Senate stood up against a bully, stood up against the governor, and we stood up for you," Collins said.
State Sen. Donne Trotter (D-Chicago), who also co-sponsored SB 570, referred to the atmosphere in Springfield as "frustrating."
"There's no reason in the world that this [budget] process should be dragging on like this," Trotter said in an interview with Progress Illinois. "Those individuals who know and appreciate the process and understand the give and take, like myself, are wondering when this is going to end. It certainly doesn't need to keep going on like this."
Trotter said there is an end to the budget impasse in sight, because "the process is designed like that," but said it would take compromise.
"This novice governor understands business, undoubtedly he's successful in it, but he doesn't understand that this process is completed by compromise, not by edict, as he's trying to do," Trotter said.
Here's more from Trotter and other speakers at the event:
To avert the budget cuts, Chicago Teachers Union Recording Secretary Michael Brunson called for revenue solutions such as a graduated income tax, a financial transaction tax and the closure of corporate tax "loopholes."
"We need to change the narrative. We need to flip the script, so when they talk about how broke they are, we need to tell them where the money is," he said.
Meanwhile, Marsha Martin, a single mother who lives on Chicago's South Side, said CCAP enabled her to get two degrees - a bachelor's and a master's degree at Chicago State University - while her three children were in day care.
"As a working mother, CCAP provided a resource for my children to be taken care of while I worked and went to school," Martin said, adding that she now works as a preschool teacher at Jellybean Learning Center.
Jellybean has turned away at least 10 parents who didn't meet the new CCAP eligibility requirements, according to Martin.
"With these new requirements, nobody can get help through CCAP. There's no way I would have been able to send any of my children to preschool," she said. "Then I wouldn't have been able to go to school and then I wouldn't have the job that I have now. That's the trickle down effect right there. Our governor needs to balance the budget and make it work for our families."