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Letters: Illinois needs sustainable solution for social services

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

The Illinois Senate and the House did the right thing last week by unanimously passing SB 2038, a bill that will provide a small amount of emergency cash to Human Service providers who desperately need it to keep their doors open and services running. Although this bill is stop gap and woefully inadequate, the governor should do the right thing by signing it quickly.

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The larger issue, of course, is that racing from fire to fire is no way to run state government. Passing SB 2038 just postpones catastrophic consequences. It is not a sustainable and comprehensive solution to Illinois’ budget crisis.

In the last few weeks, a bipartisan group of legislators have come together to do just that — find a sustainable and comprehensive solution. The specifics of this balanced budget framework have not been publicly revealed; but we do know that it’s the work of many smart leaders from both sides of the aisle acting in good faith. It is a consensus framework and the first real outline of a budget in a long time.

The governor and legislative leaders must now do their part and provide an open and fair debate about the particulars of this framework. It would be irresponsible for anyone to use SB 2038 as an excuse for stifling debate on more comprehensive solutions such as the framework.

Make no mistake. Human service providers desperately need the relief provided by SB 2038. These providers are fulfilling their contracts with the State to provide home care to people with disabilities, community care to frail older adults, after school and youth development programs, supports for victims of domestic violence, supportive housing and homelessness prevention services, and on and on. These providers have been paying for staff, rent, supplies, and insurance by borrowing money and depleting their reserves. Everything and everyone is exhausted.

But we must see SB 2038 for what it is: an emergency measure that pays only 45 cents on the dollar as reimbursement for signed contracts. Is it better than nothing? Of course. But it shouldn’t be used as a talking point for legislators when their constituents call worried about shrinking human services. SB 2038 is needed but it’s hardly anything to brag about.

We encourage the leaders in Springfield to aim higher and shed light on the budget framework that this group of brave legislators have built consensus around. Let’s have that long overdue debate about state priorities that should have started 18 months ago.

Judith Gethner, executive director,
Illinois Partners for Human Service

Tax our taxes

Our state political career persons now want to tax soft drinks, Chicago has been doing this for years, and telephone services, which they already tax. The Legislature seems to have run out of things to tax.

I might suggest that they tax the taxes we pay. It seems that when ever a government exceeds expenses over revenue they opt to raise taxes rather then reduce expenditures. The Census Bureau reports that over 6,000 residents have left the Chicago metropolitan area, which means that over 6,000 people who paid taxes to the State and local governments no longer do so and those remaining must pick up the slack in taxes. It is reasonable to tax our taxes unless they want to tax the air we breathe.

John Culloton, Norwood Park

End Internet Lottery

The Illinois Lottery continues to sell tickets online, even though the law authorizing the sale expired in March, the Daily Herald reported.

While estimates of how much money would be generated from Internet Lottery sales varied, some believed it would be as much as $100 million in additional revenue.  At a recent hearing in Springfield, Lottery officials said last year state revenue was only $4.6 million.  Now is a good time to end this program.

The Lottery will contract with a new private management company soon.  A new private manager could aggressively market Internet Lottery and target young people, who rely more heavily on purchases through the Internet.

The Internet Lottery pilot program was limited to the sale of three types of Lottery tickets.  If the program is made permanent, a new manager could expand the sales to include scratch-off tickets.  Purchasing scratch-off tickets online would allow people to scratch and purchase more tickets immediately, similarly to playing “free games” online. People could quickly lose money by repeatedly hitting “play again”.

A study of the lottery by Cornell University for the state of Maine found that lottery ticket sales go up when people lose their jobs.   Making Internet Lottery permanent will impact workers who have recently lost their jobs and are unable to find work.

Currently people can purchase $150 worth of lottery tickets a day on the Internet–$4,500 a month.   This daily rate could be increased without Legislative approval if the pilot program is made permanent, with devastating results for young people, the poor, the addicted, and their families.

Legislation authorizing Internet Lottery sales required a study to be conducted on the effect of the Lottery on Illinois families.  However, no money was ever appropriated — there is no study.

Gambling is an unstable source of revenue.   Internet Lottery sales to Illinois residents should not be made permanent (SB 513), and the Lottery should stop selling tickets online.

Anita Bedell, executive director,
Illinois Church Action on Alcohol & Addiction Problems