Smile Politely

Budget impasse hurts those who need help the most

State government seems to move at a snail’s pace. Sure, two of Illinois’ governors have gone to prison in recent memory, but honestly that sounds more exciting than it actually is. Really, it seems like nearly every aspect of Illinois is in a constant mired state of administrative chaos. I mean, damn, they still can’t even find an Athletic Director or a permanent football coach over at the U of I, let alone a suitable candidate or Governor in last year’s election. Now we’re stuck with Bruce Rauner, a staple member of the North Shore elite, and the type of guy who wears fly fishing gear to basketball games in Springfield and eliminates the g’s from the end of his words in his speeches to attempt to sound more folksy. What a disingenuous ass.

Poking fun at Governor Rauner’s expense is all good and fun, but truthfully, I feel like it distracts from the fact that he really, truly is attempting to strip citizens in need of vital services of those very services on which they depend. For the past eight months, for example, the State has been in a budget stalemate, and massive cuts have been proposed across the board, but especially in areas that hit close to home here in Champaign-Urbana.

An example of this are the proposed cuts from Governor Rauner concerning higher education in Illinois, which would slash the University of Illinois’ budget by over $200 million, which is more money than I’ll ever have in my next twenty lives combined. The good news here is that the U of I is the state’s crown jewel, and as such, does not depend on state funds as much as other universities, and should be able to weather the storm fairly well.

Other smaller, more regional universities like Eastern Illinois in Charleston or Southern Illinois in Carbondale, however, would face debilitating cuts under Rauner’s proposed budget. State Democrats refuse to budge on the issue, leading to the stalemate and subsequent blame-game that we now recognize as reality, where every day without a budget means an even more increased possibility of layoffs and furlough days.

(Graphic by the Chicago Tribune)

Unfortunately, students, faculty and staff aren’t the only ones who have to bear the burden of political inactivity. Another local group, R.A.C.E.S., or Rape advocacy, Counseling and Education services, will be yet another casuality of the budget impasse due to simple inability to pay bills without state funding. Mary Evans, Executive Director of R.A.C.E.S., had this to say:

And it is with deep regret and concern – due to the continued state budget impasse the leadership of this state leave us no choice but to announce that RACES cannot continue to weather this storm without staff and service reductions.  These changes will occur no later than mid-February – AND – if the budget impasse continues – OUR DOORS WILL CLOSE BY THE END OF APRIL.  We’ve given this community our ALL but without state funding – as well as the continued support of our local community for which we are forever grateful and hope continues in the weeks ahead – this ship will sink. We have given our all.

For those of you who were wondering just how big R.A.C.E.S. was, or what they did, Evans also clarified that below:

In 2015 RACES served more than 37,408 individuals – age 3 through adult – in our community. And yet, due to the state budget impasse, we are on the brink – after 45 years of service – of closing our doors.  Never in our history – did we dream or think for even one moment that our crisis hotline run by dedicated staff and volunteers – available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year – for the last 45 years – would go dark. Neither did we think calls for help from rape victims, hospital emergency rooms, law enforcement, and other social service agencies would go unanswered. We couldn’t imagine that requests from schools and allied agencies for prevention education and professional training programs could not be accommodated. If we are not here to provide these valuable and much- needed services, then who will provide them? We never dreamed or imagined of these possibilities that may soon become reality.

This is so childish and petty, I can hardly stand it. The state government should be ashamed of themselves. It’s disgusting.

Here is a program (R.A.C.E.S.) that has been around for almost an entire half-century, providing free useful education and advocacy for thousands of people each year in an area where many of us are afraid to speak and listen, yet many require help. They give a voice to the voiceless and help those in need the most. This is hardly a frivolous state program that will simply survive if we ignore it; it’s a vital service that we must maintain, if not for our own sake, for the sake of society as a whole. 

Listen – I get it. I know our state is in dire financial straits right now. I know we can’t afford to egregiously spend on every social program under the sun – that’s impractical. But Governor Rauner and Speaker Madigan, let me plead with you. Some programs are essential. Some social programs need funding, and need it now. R.A.C.E.S. is one of those programs, and the fact that its fate rests in the hands of politicians who seem more concerned with their own political agendas than the well-being of human beings (their constituents, mind you) is deeply disturbing. No budget impasse should ever affect the victims of abuse who need help the most, but sadly, that doens’t seem to be the way things are working in Illinois today, and it’s a shame it has to hit so close to home.

But hey, Governor Rauner’s wife just got a new Chief of Staff who makes $100,000 a year, so that’s cool, I guess. That’s definitely not an example of the government waste Rauner insists on cutting, right?

Governor Rauner, though I know you won’t do this because you’re on some crazy right wing power trip, I would like to cordially invite you to go back to your North Shore suburb and your venture capital firm, and please, for the love of anything holy, keep your hands off of our social programs and educational system. We can’t afford to have careless management, now or ever, and that seems to be the only type of thing you’re interested in.

Related Articles