Illinois is going through its worst financial crisis ever. If we do nothing, our quality of life, and the quality of life for our children and grandchildren will be greatly diminished. AARP believes that our lawmakers in Springfield must pass a responsible budget that combines new and fair revenue with tough spending controls that will enable our state to live within its financial means.
Illinois’ crisis is real:
- The quality of our college education is at stake: the state owes universities and community colleges over $750 million, forcing them to implement harsh cuts.
- School programs, including special ed and buses are being cut or cancelled. Indian Prairie School District 204 has chopped over $9 million from their budget—and will have to cut more just to stay afloat. District 300, near Elgin, will layoff over 150 teachers.
- Our public safety is seriously compromised: Cook County is considering closing two jails, while many towns outside of Chicago are not hiring or laying off police officers.
- Public libraries across the state are either cutting hours or closing on selected days.
- Counties are taking tough measures. Calhoun County is considering not making payments to the state, until the state pays its $107K debt.
- Inmates in McLean County jail are not getting the mental health services they need, because the state cannot afford to provide them.
- AgeOptions, the largest provider of senior services in suburban Cook County, is owed $1.6 million by the state and is struggling to provide services to their clients.
The Illinois budget crisis touches every aspect of our lives, including the home-care services seniors receive, the health care programs and screenings we all rely on, the schools our children and grandchildren attend, the parks they play in, the roads we drive on, and the safety of the neighborhoods we live in.
Further cuts without new and fair revenue won’t work. With a $13 billion deficit, even cutting the entire state payroll won’t balance the budget. Borrowing won’t work: Illinois already owes $6 billion to social service providers and borrowing more money is financially irresponsible. The Governor and the legislature need to fix this mess!
AARP believes the state should make an effort to increase fairness in our tax system by increasing the standard deduction and the earned income tax credit, as ways to relieve the burden of higher taxes on low and moderate-income families. The state should also find a way to provide property tax relief in a more equitable manner to help low and moderate-income homeowners and renters, for example through the Circuit Breaker program rather than homestead exemptions.
A modest but fair increase in the state income tax for individuals can help generate an adequate and consistent source of revenue (The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability estimates that raising the state income tax from 3 to 5 percent would raise nearly $6 billion).
The state would also have to approve a modest increase in the income tax for corporations (The Civic Federations believes the state may get $6 billion in new revenue through small increases in the income tax for both individuals and corporations).
Nobody likes the idea of paying more taxes and it’s clear that tough choices will need to be made, but Illinois cannot continue in its current fiscal direction. Lack of action will make things worse.
AARP is urging our elected leaders in Springfield to address these problems – now.
You can call your legislators at 1-800-719-3020 and urge them to fix Illinois financial mess and pass a responsible budget.