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Sunday Letters: Springfield leaders accomplished little

The Illinois State Capitol in Springfield (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

The smiles and back-slapping after passage of the Illinois stopgap budget last night shows just how seriously low our standards have fallen.

Legislators seem to think that the community of human service agencies can cope with getting paid 65 cents on the dollar as reimbursement for services already provided under signed contracts.

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Legislators point to the good in SB 2047. State government now has the authority to pass through federal dollars to human service agencies so that services like Home Delivered Mealscan continue. Tax revenues dedicated to human services which have been languishing in the “Commitment for Human Services Trust Fund,” all year are finally being released.

But a 65 percent appropriation will not prevent the shutdown of human service programs. Programs like early childhood education, services for sexual assault victims, addiction prevention, supportive housing, after-school programs, mental health community service, and community care for frail older adults will still be facing massive losses and no ability to plan for the future.

The United Way of Illinois’ June 22 budget survey reports that many agencies are cutting clients, leaving nearly 1 million people in Illinois without critical services.

Legislators tell us to wait until January for new revenues. But in the meantime our backlog of bills will continue to grow and our human service infrastructure will continue to shrivel. Waiting only increases the amount of revenue we need, or absentmindedly walks us into cuts our state cannot sustain.

The result: Community-based human services will shrink. The frail elderly will once again be forced to live in nursing homes rather than in their homes. Group homes for people with developmental disabilities will be shut down. Summer and after-school programs for children and youth will close, leading to an uptick in violence and substance abuse in our cities, our suburbs, and our rural areas. People with mental health problems will lose needed supports and become homeless. Institutional spending for nursing homes, hospital care, and correctional facilities will skyrocket.

Illinois is a proud and strong state. We are the state of Abraham Lincoln. How can this be our new standard?

Judith Gethner, executive director,

Illinois Partners for Human Service

Little to crow about

The self-congratulations and sucking up in both Illinois houses following the budget votes went far beyond politically — let alone socially, realistically or remotely — acceptable.

Our state representatives and senators have little to crow about. If anything. The way I see it, their “achievement” is better described as “lucky to get out of town before they were tarred and feathered.”

Kay Catlin, St. Charles

No cause to celebrate

This is cause for celebration? What about the previous 12 months and the next six months after the interim budget? Then there is the matter of the budget being way out of balance, the constitutional requirement of being balanced not met, billions of unpaid bills and the strong constitutional suggestion that the state is required to pick up half of education costs.

Thomas Cechner, Lockport

Well-used parking lot

The mayor thinks its a waste to have a parking lot on the lakefront. Guess what, mayor? That parking lot that was going to house the museum is used by many people, and events are held there during the summer for ALL to use. Thank you, Friends of the Parks, for sticking to your principles. Keep up the good work.

Rick Coan, South Loop

Disingenuous statements

Gov. Bruce Rauner insists that a number of school funding proposals before the Illinois General Assembly constitute a “bailout” for Chicago Public Schools. At best, his statements are grossly uninformed. At worst, they are disingenuous. We

expect this from politicians, but this is about kids. If there’s one place where truth should rule in politics, it must be when kids are involved.

Under the current formula, Chicago receives special treatment, removed from the funding formula, receiving a “block grant.” Senate Bill 231, one of the proposals that works to fix America’s most inequitable public school funding formula, ends the block grant and puts Chicago District 299 into the same formula as those districts in Winnetka, Moline, Taylorville and Springfield.

Education is supposed to be the great equalizer, allowing all Illinoisans to start their adult lives at the same level. However, how can a child, having no choice where to grow up, go to a school with no heat in the winter and a burned-out, chained-shut library, pull herself up by her bootstraps to get into the same college as one who attends a high school that looks like an estate from Downton Abbey?

The current school funding formula, the one Rauner wants to continue funding, is convoluted and outdated. Senate Bill 231 streamlines the morass of the current formula, directing dollars directly into classrooms — particularly those classrooms that need funds to educate special education students, English-language learners and students in poverty. Right now, Rauner’s funding formula directs those dollars to students in rich areas, funding those schools at three and four times the level of schools in less wealthy areas, despite that less wealthy areas pay higher property tax rates.

Calling Senate Bill 231 a “bailout” — although it’s nice sound bite that turns 2 million children into a political football — ignores the current system of winners and losers. Legislators must not hide behind an overly complex and opaque funding system any longer. The time is long past to consider all children in Illinois as valuable and deserving of a quality education, and put the state’s money where its needs are — and end the current bailout of the rich.

Joshua Cauhorn, Little Italy

Bad idea

I am writing in response to a letter from David Orr, country clerk. He argues for a progressive income tax in Illinois. He fails to mention that such a tax violates our Constitution. He notes that only eight states have flat tax rates, as though this is a failing, but fails to mention that the others have more vibrant economies and better bond ratings than Illinois. Indiana is one example. Orr argues that flat income taxes, and property taxes are regressive. They aren’t. Poll taxes and traffic tickets are regressive. Federal income taxes are progressive. Illinois income and property taxes are proportional to income or property value; they are neither progressive nor regressive.

Illinois’ fiscal problems stem not from a lack of taxation, but from the kleptocracy is Springfield. Orr wants to get his hands on more of our money. States like New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut that tried to respond to deficits by raising marginal tax rates have damaged their economies and lost out when employers and wealthy taxpayers fled.

Richard Crane, Lake View

Be compassionate

There are nearly a billion Hindus, Brahmins, Buddhists, Jains, Jews, Seventh Day Adventists and other spiritual people who refuse to eat beef, pork, poultry and fish because they are sentient beings and creatures of God. Many secular humanists and atheists concur. The world would be a much better and peaceful place if the international community recognized their compassion for all life and abhorrence of unnecessary bloodshed and carnage. Benevolent and humane Creationism is a much more nonviolent creed than the malevolent and inhumane religious terrorism that is violently killing humanity.

Brien Comerford, Glenview

Great show

In Sneed’s Thursday column, Mike Ditka is quoted as saying, “I’m not going to change opinions, opinions are like assholes.” He then sort of rambled about change and stuff. Ditka’s full remarks showed him no more eloquent than Trump. Ditka, Mike Tyson and Donald Trump — I hope these three stooges put on a great show at the convention.

John Powers, Rolling Meadows