Erie House Advocates for Fair Budget in Response to Governor's State of the State Address
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 28, 2016 | Chicago, IL
Advocacy groups rallied inside the capitol in Springfield on Wednesday, January 27, to demand a fair, balanced budget. PHOTO COURTESY MICAELLA VERRO
A contingent of Erie House staff and participants boarded a bus with several other local organizations to make the 200-mile trek from Chicago to Springfield yesterday. They joined several hundred advocates at the state capitol to demand a fair, balanced budget the morning of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s State of the State address before the General Assembly.
Illinois has been without a budget since July 1, 2015, and many human service agencies across the state have shouldered the heaviest burden as a result of unfunded programs.
At Erie House, several programs have witnessed layoffs and a reduction in services such as English as a Second Language classes and literacy instruction for children in grades 1–3 due to the budget impasse.
“The community we serve—an immigrant population made up of hardworking Latino families—is suffering as a result of political tactics in Springfield,” says Celena Roldán, executive director at Erie House.
“A fair, balanced budget that invests resources in our communities to provide early childhood education, youth programs, adult education and job skills training shouldn’t be held hostage by anyone’s political agenda.”
Roldán spoke the day before in Chicago at a press conference organized by the Responsible Budget Coalition in advance of the State of the State address. “It is unconscionable for us to have to tell families they don't have a place to go (to access human services),” she told reporters.
Gov. Rauner’s speech on Wednesday emphasized multiple points of his turnaround agenda, focusing on economic policy—pension reform and structural changes to worker’s compensation—as well as education. He addressed the budget toward the very end of his 30-minute speech.
“If each of us commits to serious negotiation based on mutual respect for our co-equal branches of government,” he told the General Assembly and guests in the Capitol, “there’s not a doubt in my mind we can come together to pass a balanced budget alongside reforms.”
For organizations like Erie House, the need for a FY16 budget is imminent. “The refrain Gov. Rauner used time and time again in his address was ‘let’s get it done,’” says Kirstin Chernawsky, senior director of development at Erie House. She was appointed to the role of interim associate executive director last month when Roldán announced she would be leaving Erie House in March. “We’ve been waiting for Springfield to ‘get it done’ for seven months now, and our children and families and communities can’t wait any longer.”
Chernawsky notes the rising number of human service agencies that have been forced to implement sweeping program cuts and layoffs and are in jeopardy of closing altogether if the budget impasse is not resolved. “The budget crisis is crippling an infrastructure designed to help and empower our state’s most vulnerable people,” she says.
To that end, Erie House has urged lawmakers in Springfield to find common ground and pass a budget that is long overdue. “A state budget needs to be the highest priority for Gov. Rauner and the General Assembly,” says Roldán. “The services that continue to go unfunded as a result of the impasse are critical to the health and wellbeing of children and families in our state.”