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Activists Protest Budget Cut Proposals With 'Raunerville' Campground

By aaroncynic in News on May 14, 2015 9:15PM

Hundreds of activists marched through the Loop yesterday to send Governor Bruce Rauner a message: Find revenue options instead of making budget cuts.

“It's ridiculous that Governor Rauner thinks he can balance the budget by cutting programs for seniors and other vulnerable people in Illinois,” said Victor McWilliams, a board member of the Jane Addams Senior Caucus. “What he needs to do is tax corporations and the 1 percent."

Illinois is facing a $6 billion budget shortfall due to the temporary 5 percent flat tax rolling back to its original rate of 3.75 percent. Rauner has been pushing major cuts to social services in order to balance the budget and stalling on supporting any new revenue options as a way to leverage “right to work” legislation he’s attempting to push in Springfield. The demonstrators, organized by community groups Action Now, ONE Northside and others, say the cuts would be disastrous for the most vulnerable Illinoisans.

"Cuts to mental health services will cause instability in people's lives across the board," Marnee Koob of ONE Northside said. "It will create homelessness and cost the state more money for hospitalizations and incarceration. It's time to raise revenue by taxing LaSalle Street trading.”

After a rally at Millennium Park and march to the Thompson Center, a smaller group of protesters headed back to the park to set up a Hooverville-style camp they dubbed “Raunerville” in front of a building where Rauner owns a penthouse. Though they intended to stay the night, they were removed from the park peacefully at curfew.

Rauner has faced increasing criticism for the proposed budget cuts. Last weekend, a coalition of community organizations put the governor “on trial” for the cuts and later delivered a mock warrant for his arrest to his home.

Sharon Norwood, a home child care provider from Evergreen Park who took part in that demonstration, said budget cuts would impact both her and the families she works for unfairly:

“The bottom line is he has not taken into consideration the hardships that it would cause on not only the parents and children, but the providers,” said Norwood. “The reality is if you did cut these programs at the rate he’s going to do it - to be honest, children’s lives are in jeopardy.”

And while the governor and his supporters might contend the only way to save the budget is to make cuts, that’s only true if revenue options are ignored. Last week, the advocacy group Voices For Children released a report highlighting several revenue options that might work, including switching the tax code from a flat to a graduated one, closing corporate tax loopholes and making changes to the state’s sales tax.

“Governor Rauner’s talk about ’shared sacrifice’ is a joke,” said Jessie Avraham, a member of Jane Addams Senior Caucus, at last week’s mock trial of Rauner and his cuts. “Big corporations and the wealthy aren’t ’sacrificing’ anything, they reap the rewards when they don’t pay their fair share.”