Bugle-Sentinel: Budget standoff hits home for state workers


By Dave Sennerud | For The Bugle-Sentinel

While some may see the budget stalemate between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic legislators as political gamesmanship, home healthcare worker Helen Brown of Joliet says the potential government shutdown is no contest: it threatens her livelihood.

Last week, Rauner vetoed the 19th of 20 appropriations bills that were sent to his desk by legislators. He is demanding more than $3 billion in cuts and a balanced budget that makes concessions to his pro-business, anti-union agenda.

With a government unsure of how it will pay its bills, Brown worries about her job and the senior citizens she works with through the state’s Department of Rehabilitation Services. Without a budget, the state lacks authorization for spending.

“I love my job, but if he doesn’t agree on a budget soon, I may wind up being homeless,” Brown said. “I don’t know what will happen if I don’t get paid. I won’t be able to pay my bills, and I wouldn’t be able to pay for childcare. I’m nervous.”

Brown was one of several people that spoke at a candlelight vigil on June 30 at Joliet’s New Canaan Land Christian Church. It was one of several vigils statewide to protest cuts proposed by Rauner and highlight the effects of a government shutdown.

State Democrats put forth similar bills in the House and Senate to extend $2.58 billion in temporary funding for core services in July. While the Senate passed the bill, it didn’t get enough votes in the House. State representatives will get another chance at the bill when the Senate version arrives later this week.

Critical services that would be extended under the bill include things such as Medicaid, programs for seniors, state homes for veterans, foster care, corrections, Meals on Wheels, probation programs and the monitoring of sex offenders.

Rauner has vowed to veto any attempts to temporarily extend the budget.

“I hope the governor reconsiders,” said state Sen. Pat McGuire, D-Joliet, who voted for the temporary funding bill. “Back in the spring, when funds ran dry, statewide 100 childcare centers closed and never reopened. This is why we voted to get this bill off the floor.”

With a 14-year-old daughter and twin 10-year-old boys, Brown depends on state help to pay for childcare so that she is able to continue working.

“This is attacking me from both ends,” she said. “It’s unfair for the governor to attack senior citizens and children. Why would he want to take off the safety net and cut them off?”

Brown added that home health care is cheaper than placing seniors in nursing homes.

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