Tax hikes urged to fund social services

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

In June 2009, more than 250 people from 16 social service agencies in Elgin gathered in front of the Larkin Center, decried state budget cuts and demanded that lawmakers "Just fix it!"

Sixteen months later, a smaller group gathered at another Larkin Center facility to push for a responsible, balanced budget.

"It's worse (now)," Larkin Center Executive Director Dennis Graf said during a news conference Monday. "It was so much worse the last year and (state lawmakers) play the same political games."

But this time, the Responsible Budget Coalition and Citizen Action Illinois called for "significant new revenues" to protect social services and jobs.

By that, Citizen Action Co-Director William McNary advocated for a statewide income tax increase and more taxes on services, balanced out by progressive property tax relief and increases on earned income tax credits for lower-income residents.

"At this point in time, anything that does a balanced budget approach should be on the table," he said.

The group included representatives from: the Cary Elementary District 26 union, where more than 70 teachers were laid off and programs like art and music cut last spring; the Larkin Center; PADS of Elgin; and the Ecker Center for Mental Health in Elgin.

They railed on lags in state funding, saying that when one agency is affected it trickles down to all groups in Elgin.

"Together, the agencies in Elgin form a safety net," Graf said. "What's the difference when you cut the safety net? People fall and they don't get up."

McNary said he and other activists were prepared to travel to Springfield for the veto session from Nov. 16 through 18 and Nov. 30 through Dec. 2 to push for a budget fix.

"Our system is broke. We need to band together and call for responsible budgeting," he said.