Gov. Rauner did something incredibly shortsighted when he suspended $26 million in social service and public health grants, including $3.1 million for the Illinois Tobacco Quitline. Every state in our country has a quitline. With this budget cut, Illinois will be the only state without a lifeline for its smokers.

This free resource answered more than 90,000 calls last year, connecting smokers with registered nurses, respiratory therapists and certified tobacco-treatment counselors to provide support, day and night. While most cessation programs have about a 20 percent success rate, 43 percent of callers to the Illinois Tobacco Quitline have successfully quit smoking.

Because this tool is so effective, the Illinois Tobacco Quitline saves the state money. Many Quitline callers are Medicaid recipients whose tobacco-related disease treatments cost the state nearly $1 billion each year. Another 27 percent of callers have no health insurance at all.

The Illinois Tobacco Quitline isn’t even funded through taxpayer dollars. It receives money through the Tobacco Master Settlement, an agreement under which the tobacco industry will pay states $10 billion annually for the indefinite future. Illinois received $265 million for this fiscal year to support programs like the Quitline.

Gov. Rauner, do what’s right and restore funding to the Illinois Tobacco Quitline. More than 16,600 Illinoisans died from tobacco-related illnesses last year.

Kathleen Goss
American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network

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So much for ‘shared sacrifice’

Homicides and shootings are up, yet state-funded youth-employment, after-school and anti-violence programs are being wiped out by Gov. Rauner. I thought it was supposed to be “shared sacrifice,” but programs in the black and brown communities, and programs serving the most vulnerable, are being extinguished while corporate tax breaks are being spared.

Does anybody care?

Rev. Michael L. Pfleger
Faith Community of Saint Sabina

A potential for ‘real harm’ to the most vulnerable

The FY 2016 state budget introduced by Gov. Bruce Rauner fails to fully fund services for people with disabilities. His proposed cuts in some programs, coupled with already-inadequate reimbursement rates for services, have been described as cost-cutting measures.

However, when one considers the long-term savings of community-based care when compared with costlier alternatives, social service providers are a wise investment of state resources. They also offer an improved quality of life for our citizens most in need.

Illinois has a long, complicated history when it comes to services for people with disabilities. Even during good economic times it has been difficult to secure necessary resources, so children and adults with developmental disabilities and mental health needs can receive services in their own communities. It has been eight years since providers have received a funding increase, which has compounded the financial strain on community-based programs and services. Furthermore, there have been many cuts over that eight-year span. Next year’s proposed budget reduces funding for developmental disability and mental health services by $157.6 million. Without some changes to the FY 2016 state budget, we will be headed two steps back next year.

At this critical juncture, we urge the governor and the General Assembly to carefully consider the ramifications of next year’s budget. There is potential for real harm awaiting some of Illinois’ most vulnerable residents if the state does not adequately fund services for developmental disabilities, behavioral health needs, and early childhood intervention. The future of services for people with disabilities in this state is at stake, and we must do the right thing.

Debra Condotti, Easter Seal Joliet Region
Art Dykstra, Trinity Services

Sue Knaperek, Center for Disability Services
Ben Stortz, Cornerstone Services

Hillary’s critics ‘marching backward’

I’m awed that Marco Rubio has the gall to accuse Hillary Clinton of wanting “to take us back to yesterday.” He and his fellow Republicans would give anything to turn back the clock and make “Obamacare” never happen.  They would rejoice if all abortions and same-sex marriages were again illegal; and for good measure they’d be thrilled if all minimum wage laws were eliminated. Who is it that’s marching backward?

Dan McGuire, Bensenville