The clock is about to run out on the Illinois budget for FY2016. At the beginning of the fiscal year, this seemed like a glitch that would be fixed within days or weeks when politicians could meet and hammer out a compromise. With the present climate in politics from Washington to Springfield, we should have known that was not really a viable option. While the situation is tragic and shameful, the politicians don’t seem to be all that concerned about solving the problem.
With a budget due for FY2017 looming on the horizon, our state leaders not only look ridiculous — a portrait that doesn’t seem to bother them at all — but they are all personally responsible for the numerous social programs that are disappearing.
Our Catholic social programs are trying to pick up the slack from the state programs now MIA, but the state also owes Catholic social programs thousands of dollars for services that are continuing to be provided even though the state is not paying these agencies a dime. Add to that the college students who qualified for MAP — Monetary Award Program —and will not be receiving assistance to go to college.
We want highly-skilled and well-educated citizens, but I guess we only want the ones who can afford to pay the freight on their educations or are willing to go deeply into debt for that education. We already have a student-loan debt crisis, so why shouldn’t Illinois help young people accumulate debt?
Every college and university wants to attract bright and dedicated young people to their programs, but some students who would be happy to go to college in Illinois are looking elsewhere because state funding is a myth right now. Coupled with that, state colleges and universities are laying off staff to try to deal with this unreasonable, not to mention unbelievable, burden they are bearing.
Programs to protect the vulnerable, the young and the poor are suffering the most. If they haven’t disappeared entirely, they have been sharply reduced. We will see the “fruits” of this loss in coming days, months and years. Young people who would have gone to after-school programs or been enrolled in classes or camps to broaden their experiences and enrich their lives may now be involved in unproductive activities or just left to their own devices — not usually a good idea for teenagers.
The obvious answer is to put state politicians, including the governor, in the shoes of those who have no services. Make them or their parents dependent on Meals on Wheels programs, and then cut them off. Stop name-calling and blaming each other for doing nothing and resolve to take action and try to repair some of the damage already done. I’d like to be proud that I live in Illinois instead of being embarrassed by it.