As lawmakers put their own needs ahead of the state's, voters are taking notice
The Illinois legislature's inability to end the almost-year-old budget impasse is causing voters to question what is happening in Springfield, as lawmakers put their own needs ahead of the state, Dale Fowler, state Senate candidate in District 59, said.
“It seems like the politicians in Springfield have put their interests ahead of the needs of our families,” Fowler, who is currently the mayor of Harrisburg, told Southwest Illinois News. “It seems like they refused to set aside their partisan differences and compromises to protect families and (reduce) higher taxes and everything else.”
It's unknown if schools will be able to open in the fall without a budget, and public service providers and others funded by the government are facing an uncertain future.
The consequences of the budget game being played in Springfield has already been felt at Eastern Illinois University, which has lost a fourth of its workforce.
“Of course, education is our No. 1 concern right now,” Fowler said. “We just want to make sure these schools can open this fall. It’s kind of scary. Here in the city of Harrisburg, our school district has 37 days of reserves. Some of the schools up north are in a lot better shape. Financially, they can probably withstand maybe close to a year in reserve. But some of these poor districts, 37 days of funds is not very much.”
Fowler said the budget recently proposed by House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-District 22), which ultimately failed in the Senate, is evidence of the state's politicians putting their own needs first.
“The House passed a budget that is over $7 billion out of balance,” Fowler said. “The sad part of it is, if that were to become a (reality), it would require a tax increase of approximately a $1,000 on our families. If you take into consideration families that are struggling already, trying to put food on the table and clothes on their kids, $1,000 is a lot of money. It’s embarrassing and it’s appalling how anyone can bring a $7 billion budget deficit to the table.”
Fowler believes residents of Illinois are already over taxed and over burdened. This, along with a combination of other economic factors, has been detrimental to the state.
“Our property tax is high," he said. "Our families are being taxed out of their home. They can’t afford to live here any longer. They sure can’t afford to pay anymore. We pay the highest property taxes in the nation. We have the highest unemployment rate in the nation... . Like I said before, we’re forcing families and businesses to leave our state at unprecedented rates. If something doesn’t happen soon, it’s just going to continue to escalate.”
Things are escalating in Springfield and there are now rumors of dissension among Democrats, but Fowler said those who voted in favor of Madigan's budget plan should be ashamed of themselves.
“They should be embarrassed,” Fowler said. “I believe there were 17 senators (who) voted in favor of this $7 billion deficit. Unfortunately they are saying (Madigan’s budget) is good for Southern Illinois. But how can a budget deficit be good for Southern Illinois? That $7 billion is still going to have to be made up. And where are you going to (make up for it)? We’re going to have $40 billion in debt with $33 billion dollars of income. How long are you going to last?”
Fowler said he believes that Illinois has no future in if it maintains its current state. Fortunately, though, he believes voters are finally taking notice and will change things for the better.
“The voters are smart people,” he said. “They are becoming more aware (of) how critical things are. They are talking about the status of the state of Illinois; about what is going to happen. They can’t afford to keep their homes. I mean, there are people that are paying more in property taxes than house payments. It’s taking over what a mortgage payment is... . And that’s pretty scary.”
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Harrisburg, IL 62946