SPRINGFIELD — Minutes after state Sen. Toi Hutchinson helped to pass a controversial revenue bill that was met with major Republican resistance, she was inundated with harsh words on her Facebook page.
“No more takes [sic] you dirt bags stop screwing the taxpayers!!!!!!!!” one Facebook user wrote.
“How dare you raise my taxes in this corrupt state. You are ruining people’s lives with your tax and spend ways. I literally hate you,” another person wrote.
Illinois lawmakers — many of whom face uncertain re-election possibilities next year — are being inundated by comments, insults and suggestions as the clock ticks toward the end of the legislative session amid a historic and politically driven budget impasse that’s left the state in the lurch.
State universities and social service agencies haven’t received funds since Jan. 1 when a partial budget expired.
Lawmakers say constituents are amping up the pressure to stop the bleeding.
“People are so angry. And if they’re not impacted by any of the hard stuff, they zero in on the things that they hate the most. It’s in the midst of the environment that we’re in. It’s the . . . trash comments and the people who try to hijack my Facebook page,” Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields, said. “Go to my state Facebook page. Just take a look. It is cruel, absolutely cruel.”
Hutchinson said she receives “constant” calls about MAP college grants. She represents Governors State University, Kankakee Community College and Prairie State College.
“Not only did the lack of MAP grants wreak havoc over these institutions, but I can’t tell you how many calls I get from people who say ‘I can’t finish this semester,'” Hutchinson said.
In Democratic State Sen. Heather Stean’s 7th district, which encompasses North Side and Northwest Side Chicago neighborhoods, a non-profit plans in June to close some of its facilities that help take care of people with disabilities and mental-health issues if there’s no budget. Another organization which helps to provide shelter for domestic-violence victims called to tell her they’re planning layoffs because they haven’t been able to pay employees all year.
Despite this, Steans says her constituents aren’t paying attention to the barbs being thrown in the political war between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago. They just care about the results of it.
“I think people are really frustrated and fed up and to some extent don’t even know what to do with the fact that we don’t have a budget. I don’t think they want to hear about the pointing and blaming. They want us to all step up and do our job,” Steans said.
State Sen. Chris Nybo, R-Westmont, says his constituents are largely calling, emailing and stopping by to complain about their property taxes.
“Nobody is happy. The constituents I represent, they don’t care about scoring political points and so they don’t think it’s good when you make a good argument or when we really stick it to the speaker or the Democrats,” Nybo said. “They just want to see things get done. They’re practical people. . . . I don’t think they’re going to put up with it anymore.”
At baseball, games, hockey games, and when he’s dropping his kids off to school, State Rep. Michael McAuliffe, R- Chicago, said he’s hearing it all.
“They’re telling me how desperate they are, in my suburban areas as well as the city. They’re at wits’ ends. They don’t know what else to do,” McAuliffe said.
Constituents are asking for cuts, not new taxes, McAuliffe says. And many on fixed incomes are worrying if they’ll lose their homes: “Someone who lives in the city of Chicago, last year they saw their water rates go up. They saw a garbage tax. Everywhere you look there’s a new tax. And they’re squeezed all the way to the end.”
State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, says he’s getting an earful, too.
“People don’t understand why we’re not funding social-service agencies and higher education,” McSweeney said, adding he’s receiving calls about the Pioneer Center for Human Services in McHenry County. “There is no good explanation.”
He’s also hearing complaints from school superintendents worried about whether their schools will be properly funded. And they ask some political questions too.
“People ask me, ‘Why hasn’t the governor been meeting with the leaders?'” McSweeney said. “I don’t have a good answer.”
House Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang, D-Skokie, says he’s getting calls from parents of high school students asking whether they should send their kids to an Illinois school or out-of-state.
“It’s hard to give them an answer when we treat higher education the way that we do,” Lang said.