As a member of the clergy, serving as Youth Minister at Metropolitan Community Church in Chicago, I joined dozens of activists who make up the “Revenue Truth Squad” at the State Capitol on Tuesday May 26, 2015. We went to Springfield to urge lawmakers to protect the most vulnerable among us and ask the most fortunate to pay their fair share.
In February, Governor Rauner presented a budget that seeks unacceptably deep cuts that are immoral. His proposed budget would cut funding for services for the homeless and supportive housing, higher education, Medicaid, DCFS, childcare subsidies for low-income families, after-school programs, addiction and substance abuse, violence prevention, safety-net hospitals and home care for the disabled.
At the same time Governor Rauner is proposing these deadly budget cuts, he is protecting the millionaires and billionaires with unnecessary tax breaks. This is wrong and immoral!
Community Renewal Society leaders met with Governor Rauner's office and proposed solid ideas for generating the additional state revenue that is needed to avoid these drastic, immoral and deadly budget cuts.
Governor Rauner’s inflexible stance on exploring new state revenue is unrealistic. We have proposed several common sense ways of responsibly raising revenue including returning to the 5% income tax rate, expanding the sales tax to consumer services, closing specific corporate tax loopholes, taxing retirement income above a certain amount and re-amortizing the state pension debt.
It is unfortunate that the state of Illinois faces a $6 billion structural deficit for next year’s budget but this was not caused by children, the elderly, the disabled, the poor and those who suffer from mental illness.
In the Parable of Lazarus, the rich man sees the consequences of hoarding wealth while allowing the poor man to starve. This injustice is writ large in the Rauner budget proposal. The Bible teaches us in Proverbs 31:8-9 to, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed and passed over. Yes, speak up for the poor and needy, and see that they get justice.”
This fight is not over. At the end of May, the Illinois General Assembly passed an unbalanced budget that would still impose roughly $2 billion in immoral cuts to our communities. Legislators simply did not have the courage to pass the revenue we need to avoid these cuts. On July 1, the harmful effects of these cuts will begin to be felt in our communities when state funding to many service providers will be stopped and our neighbors in need of vital services will be turned away.
That's why I will continue to stand with clergy and community leaders in the coming weeks to urge Governor Rauner and the General Assembly to choose revenue over deadly budget cuts so that future generations of Illinoisans are not condemned to live off the scraps that fall from the tables of millionaires and billionaires. I ask you to join me, CRS leaders, service providers and their clients, and other community leaders at the Thompson Center on July 1 at 10 am to tell our elected officials to choose revenue.
At this critical crossroads in our state’s history, we have a message for Governor Rauner and the General Assembly: It is time for the people to be treated in a way consistent with the moral authority that so many of our politicians rush to claim.
As Illinois taxpayers, we are willing to pay our fair share, but a budget is a moral document and we— as people of faith—will raise our voices in unison to tell our elected officials that the budgets that have been proposed by the Governor and the General Assembly are immoral. We will not stand for an immoral budget! We will not rest until our elected officials agree to support additional state revenue.
We will not ignore the pain and suffering that this budget will inflict on countless individuals and families throughout communities all across our state. We will not rest until Governor Rauner reverses course on these deadly budget cuts.
I am praying for our state, for Governor Rauner, and the General Assembly: I pray that God will transform their hearts and bend their minds towards justice.