“Am I my brother’s keeper?”
On February 18, 2015, Governor Rauner presented his FY 2016 budget proposal to the Illinois General Assembly. He announced devastating cuts, such as $168 million from the Department of Children and Family Services, $27.5 million from substance abuse services, $82 million from community mental health, and $735 million from hospitals serving Medicaid populations. Additionally, the Governor completely eliminated homeless youth services, child care services for children over the age of 6, services for wards of the state who are 18 to 21 years old, Teen Reach, and After School Matters.
The Governor alleged that the budget will pay for what we need most, but the majority of the cuts will hurt the most vulnerable of our communities. These services have already seen repeated cuts in recent years. The Governor called his budget a turnaround budget. Instead, we are turning our backs on those who have already suffered in the state’s ongoing fiscal crisis.
If we indeed are to take some responsibility for the well-being of our sisters and brothers, we must recognize that the state’s budget crisis is a call to justice. The only responsible approach is to generate the revenue we need to put all of the families of Illinois on a path to sustainable prosperity.
Balancing the 2016 budget will require $6 billion in cuts. These cuts and the damage they will cause to families across Illinois could be avoided if we as a state had the courage to pass the revenue measures we need to protect vital social services and adequately fund education.
In his address, the Governor quoted President Abraham Lincoln, saying “The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion.” The Governor held that “We must take the responsible path and end the recklessness of the past…We must put the people of Illinois before partisan politics.” When reviewing the long list of irresponsible and reckless cuts, we have to wonder exactly which people he is talking about.
The Illinois General Assembly must rise to the occasion and find the courage to pass the necessary revenue measures that will ensure all of the families in Illinois can share in the economic growth and prosperity the Governor has promised.
Let us not deny our responsibility for one another. Let us not ignore God’s call to do justice and protect the most vulnerable among us. They have sacrificed enough.