Still No State Budget?
I’m reposting this because the time given for the public action of Moral Mondays on November 2nd was incorrect: it’s at 10:30, not 11 as indicated in the first posting.
This summer I visited the United Methodist churches in Chicago participating in the Public Schools’ Safe Haven program. Each of one of these churches is opening its doors to children in the community when school is not in session, offering food and a safe place at no cost to families. When I asked one young boy what he would be doing if it weren’t for the church’s program his face fell, and he said, “I’d just be stuck inside all summer.”
This boy’s sad predicament has many sources. Because of cuts to the parks and recreation budget, his family may no longer be able to afford local camps. Because of cuts to violence prevention and intervention programs, his parents may not feel safe letting him play with friends on the street. Because of cuts to child care assistance, his parents may no longer be able to afford child care for younger siblings, affecting his own options for education and enrichment. All this, and his is still the current best case scenario for an Illinois child – at least he’s not a child with a ventilator, with a severe mental illness, special needs or being abused; all of whom will have fewer resources under Governor Bruce Rauner’s budget for the state of Illinois.
As United Methodists, it’s important for us to recognize that a budget is a moral statement. It states what we believe in and what we value. In Governor Rauner’s budget there are many factors that don’t represent what we as United Methodists value.
For farmers already struggling with crop destruction from flooding, soil and water conservation assistance will be gone. With the zeroing out of the Agricultural Education line item, an important pipeline for future farm industry workers will be decimated. For both rural and suburban churches, the reductions in municipal funding will lead to critical cuts in 911 dispatch and police and firefighting services. Suburban communities will also see their transportation budgets (which allow for commutes, independence of the elderly, and the freedom of people with disabilities) significantly cut.
Most devastatingly, in every community our children will be left without the necessary resources to live safe, healthy lives. With cuts in child care assistance, health care, mental health clinics, in education at every level, and the Department of Child and Family Services (which already struggles to fulfill its mission, with a child in Illinois dying every 3 days from abuse or neglect), it is certain that there are Illinois children who will be left alone, unhealthy, or permanently harmed by Governor Rauner’s budget. In addition to the moral and spiritual debt, this will become an additional financial burden on the state in the future.
The good news is that there is an available solution, right now, to our budget crisis. Raise revenues from the corporations that have benefited over the years from Illinois’ largesse, and institute a fair tax system that ensures all businesses in Illinois, no matter how wealthy, contribute their fair share to keeping the state solvent. Today, two thirds of Illinois corporations pay no income tax. The money needed to solve our woes is already here in our state and can be raised while still maintaining a welcoming environment for businesses. Gov. Rauner has simply been too beholden to the donors who elected him to try this path.
Children, the elderly, and the poor are put at risk. We are called to protect the most vulnerable parts of the Body of Christ, and say and do what is necessary to stand up for God’s people. We are commanded to “do justice to the afflicted and destitute” (Psalm 82).
Some of our United Methodist clergy and laity have joined other leaders of faith in a movement that seeks to end the suffering that will be caused by this budget. The Moral Mondays Illinois movement believes that our state leaders can find ways to balance our budget and keep providing vital services, including fairer taxes on high-earning Illinois corporations.
The next Moral Mondays action is on Monday, November 2. They will gather in the plaza outside the Thompson Center at 10:30 for a rally and then take to the streets to protest these budget cuts that threaten our most vulnerable and demand that corporations and the upper 1% pay their fair share in taxes. Please consider joining them as they pray and put legs to their prayers.
But if that’s not your way of praying and protesting, then make sure your state Congresspeople and the governor know that as a person of faith, you want a moral budget…and it’s time to get one.