Yesterday—July 1, 2015—was one of the darkest days in the recent history of Illinois.
At the end of May—with the clock ticking down on the deadline for legislators in Springfield to agree upon a budget for the next twelve months—the Illinois General Assembly narrowly passed a FY16 state budget. Governor Rauner protested that this budget presumed to spend roughly $4 billion that the state simply does not have and he branded legislators as irresponsible for sending him an unbalanced budget.
Then, on June 24, Governor Rauner surprised many by approving a single budget item—funding for K-12 public schools. This authorization essentially guarantees that our public schools will open on time in August. But on the following day, the Governor used his executive powers to veto the remaining FY16 budget appropriations passed by the General Assembly at the end of May. That brings us to Wednesday, July 1, which marked the first day of the new fiscal year in Illinois. With no budget in place, uncertainty and instability reign. State employees do not know when their next paycheck will come; social service agencies will do their best to keep their doors open and continue to provide critical services in our communities, even absent the funding promised to them in state contracts; and millions of Illinois families live in fear that they will lose the services they rely on for day-to-day survival.
In the face of this fear and scarcity, we as people of faith can and should respond in two ways. First, we must take to the streets and stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters with the least, who risk losing the most. On July 1, CRS churches did just that at the Thompson Center. We will continue to take action until our elected officials approve a just budget that prioritizes the needs of our most vulnerable neighbors. You can also take action right now by contacting your state legislators and the governor to ask them to support additional state revenue to prevent cuts. Since January, CRS has been consistent in our message to state legislators that we oppose all budget cuts, and we have proposed a broad range of revenue options to raise the roughly $6 billion Illinois needs to avert the destruction cuts would cause.
Secondly, we as people of faith must pray—for our neighbors in need to receive the compassion they deserve, and for our elected officials to have the courage to do the right thing. You can read two reflections from CRS pastors, Rev. Daniel Ruen and Rev. Alice Harper Jones, in response to the harmful budget cuts we face.