Tag: funding cut

Bruce Rauner’s War on Downstate Illinois

Republican Governor Bruce Rauner has, despite winning a very large percentage of the downstate vote in the 2014 Illinois gubernatorial election, waged a war on downstate Illinois ever since taking office, much of which involves, either directly or indirectly, his political hostage-taking in regards to the state budget (which Illinois has operated without for a very long time because of Rauner).

There are several reasons why Rauner’s destructive politics has negatively impacted downstate Illinois.

Agricultural education

Rauner has, as recently as March of this year, targeted agricultural education, which has helped thousands of Illinois farmers better understand the land and farming practices, for complete elimination of state funding. This is obviously a blatant attack against downstate Illinois by Rauner, since nearly all of the agricultural industry’s economic activity in Illinois occurs downstate.

Higher education funding in general

It’s not just agricultural education that has been negatively impacted by Rauner’s War on Higher Education. Higher education in general, and, in particular, Eastern Illinois University, have felt the wrath of Rauner since taking office. Rauner has refused to fund public higher education institutions in Illinois. Eastern Illinois University, which serves a very conservative region of the state, has been forced to lay off nearly 200 employees and is on the brink of being forced to permanently shut down.

Illinois State Museum

Another casualty of Rauner’s War on Downstate is the Illinois State Museum, which is located in Springfield. The state museum was forced to close due to the lack of a state budget, meaning that the art exhibits, natural history exhibits, and other exhibits housed at the state museum are not accessible to the public.

Whoever Democrats nominate in the 2018 election for Governor of Illinois will have to address the concerns of downstate voters in order to defeat Bruce Rauner.

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Chicago teachers go on one-day strike against Rahm-Rauner austerity

K-12 school teachers represented by the Chicago Teachers’ Union (CTU) have gone on a one-day strike to protest budget cuts by Republican Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner and the Rahm Emanuel-appointed Chicago Public Schools (CPS) board (tweet from March 23, strike took place today):

Republicans like Bruce Rauner and his allies, as well as neoliberal corporate Democrats like Rahm Emanuel and his allies, have teamed up in an effort to destroy public education in Chicago, as well as the rest of Illinois. This is despite the fact that investing in public education, not charter schools, school vouchers, or other forms of education privatization, is one of the best investments that politicians can use the people’s taxpayer money for. The more money that government invests in public education at the elementary, secondary, and collegiate levels, the more likely students are able to go on to work in good-paying jobs, thus stimulating the economy when those who have good-paying jobs spend their hard-earned money on goods and services.

I stand with striking Chicago teachers!

ENDORSEMENT: Donna Edwards for U.S. Senate in Maryland

I proudly and unapologetically endorse Donna Edwards for the open U.S. Senate seat that is currently held by retiring U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)!

Donna is a strong champion of progressive values on a wide array of issues. Donna fought to protect Social Security benefits by taking on President Obama and corporate Democrats in Congress when they tried to cut Social Security benefits, and she’s strongly opposed Republican-backed efforts to turn Medicare into a voucher program. Additionally, Donna is a staunch opponent of big-money politics, and supports amending the U.S. Constitution to repeal disastrous U.S. Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United v. FEC. Furthermore, Donna strongly supports common-sense measures designed to end gun violence in America. Also, Donna is strongly pro-choice and pro-equal pay.

Donna’s opposition in the Democratic primary is Chris Van Hollen, a political crony of President Obama, Harry Reid, and Chuck Schumer who supported Obama’s plan to cut Social Security benefits. One of Van Hollen’s supporters is Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr., the Maryland state senate president. Miller said that he thought that Van Hollen was “born to the job” of being a U.S. Senator:

Rep. Donna F. Edwards wants her supporters to know that one of the most powerful Democrats in Maryland backs her opponent in the state’s Democratic Senate primary. In particular, she wants them to know that Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. thinks Rep. Chris Van Hollen was “born to the job.”

“Born to the job?” she wrote Tuesday in a fundraising email. “The fact is, our country’s systems and institutions have largely been led by people who have always looked like that senior elected official, not like me. . . . I don’t believe anyone in this country was born to anything.”

The fact of the matter is that nobody in this country is born to any kind of job, and anyone who thinks that anyone is born to a political office of any kind doesn’t believe in democracy.

Donna marches to the beat of her own drum and fights for progressive values on many important issues, even if it means taking on the leadership of her own party. That’s the kind of strong leadership that Maryland needs and deserves. You can learn more about Donna’s campaign to become Maryland’s next U.S. Senator here.

As he launches his presidential campaign, Scott Walker compares Wisconsinites to special interests

Approximately 19 seconds into Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s presidential campaign announcement video, an unnamed narrator for the Walker campaign said that Walker “beat the special interests” over a video clip of progressive protesters supporting the unsuccessful recall attempt against Walker in 2012. At around the 39-second mark of the video, Walker himself spoke in front of the camera and talked about taking “power out of the hands of big government special interests”.

In reality, Walker compared the people of his state to special interests, while allowing special interests like big business interests and the school voucher lobby to benefit from the very big government that Walker rails against.

For Walker to compare Wisconsinites to special interests is not only false, it’s also offensive. More specifically, Walker compared Wisconsin progressives to special interests, and, having followed many of them on blogs and social media for the past few years, I can certainly say that they are not special interests. They’re people who want to make their state and their country a better place to live. They care about their communities, and they support workers’ rights, women’s rights, the middle class, open government, equality, and other progressive ideals. As Meghan Blake-Horst, a co-founder and the market manager of the MadCity Bazaar flea market in Madison, Wisconsin, put it, “Yes, we have special interests in feeding, educating and providing our kids a healthy place to grow up. And running our small businesses.” Comparing people like Blake-Horst to special interests dehumanizes people.

The truth about Walker’s record is that he and his political allies in Wisconsin have given special interests, such as big business interests and the school voucher lobby, effective control over Wisconsin’s state government. Those special interests have, in turn, helped Wisconsin’s state government, among other things, hand out tax breaks to the wealthy, give out tons of corporate welfare to businesses, privatize and cut funding from public K-12 education, cut funding from higher education, strip tenure away from college professors, make it harder for Wisconsinites to vote, make it harder for Wisconsin women to get the reproductive health care they want, bust unions, drive down wages, hurt Wisconsin’s economy, run up massive state budget deficits, and destroyed Wisconsin’s reputation. Martha Laning, the Chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW), didn’t mince words one bit in her statement criticizing Walker as he launches his presidential campaign. Laning stated that Walker’s record “is one of unprecedented corruption, division, extremism and a failure to foster economic growth and opportunity”. Laning also took Walker to task over “stagnant” wages in Wisconsin, “job growth that’s dead last in the Midwest and trailing most of the nation”, a corporate welfare agency “that’s known more for scandal than economic development”, and a massive Wisconsin state budget deficit “created by his failed policies”.

While Scott Walker compares the people of his home state to special interests, the truth of the matter is that Walker is beholden to real special interests that own him and his political allies, and they’ve completely wrecked Wisconsin’s economy, reputation, and quality of life. If Walker is elected president, Walker, his political allies, and big-money special interests will turn America into a third-world country by enacting the same far-right political agenda they enacted in Wisconsin.

How the Republican agenda hurts rural Wisconsinites

I’m going to share something that Wisconsin State Rep. Dianne Hesselbein (D-Middleton), wrote for the Madison, Wisconsin-based newspaper The Cap Times a week and a half or so ago. In her op-ed, Hesselbein talked about how the Republicans’ state budget in Wisconsin hurts rural Wisconsinites especially hard:

  • On public schools, the Republican budget cuts $150/pupil from Wisconsin’s K-12 public school districts in the 2015-2016 school year and $135/pupil from Wisconsin’s K-12 public school districts over the biennium (the two-year period of the budget). Additionally, Republican Governor Scott Walker wants more charter schools, which get public funds that would otherwise go to public schools, in Wisconsin. Furthermore, the Republican budget cuts funding used to create homeschooling lessons and online educational materials, which are produced by Wisconsin MediaLab. These cuts could force some rural school districts in Wisconsin to consolidate, costing small towns jobs they need to survive.
  • On rural sanitation, Walker proposed, in the original state budget proposal, to eliminate a fund that helps low-income Wisconsinites replace failing septic systems, but it had its funds restored by the Republican-controlled Wisconsin State Legislature.
  • On rural roads, Walker proposed eliminating funding for removal of deer carcasses from rural roads in Wisconsin, which would have caused an even greater hazard to people driving in rural areas of Wisconsin. This also had its funding restored by the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) of the Wisconsin State Legislature.
  • On rural health, the Republican budget eliminates both Wisconsin’s Rural Physician Residency Assistance Program and a loan forgiveness program designed to encourage medics to work in rural areas of Wisconsin. The program also cuts $25 million in Medicaid funding to most of Wisconsin’s community health centers.
  • On local government property insurance, Walker proposed eliminating Wisconsin’s Local Government Property Insurance Fund, which insures street sweepers, salt sheds, and other things that local governments in Wisconsin own and use to carry out street maintenance and other duties of local governments in Wisconsin. The City of Middleton, the Village of Waunakee, and the Village of Cross Plains, three incorporated municipalities in Hesselbein’s state assembly district, currently pay a combined total of $120,419 ($51,342 for Middleton, $49,214 for Waunakee, and $19,863 for Cross Plains) in premiums for insurance provided by the state’s local government insurance fund. If this fund is eliminated, local governments all across Wisconsin would have to pay more for local government property insurance from the private sector, if that kind of insurance is obtainable from the private sector. In its review of Walker’s budget proposal, the Wisconsin State Legislature delayed the demise of the program by two years.
  • On higher education, the University of Wisconsin Extension (UW-Extension) maintains a presence in all 72 Wisconsin counties, providing assistance to Wisconsinites in areas such as agriculture, 4-H youth development programs, and family living. Walker’s proposed funding cuts to the entire University of Wisconsin System (UW-System), which includes the UW-Extension, could result in the loss of 65 to 80 county-level Cooperative Extension positions, making it harder for Wisconsin’s farmers to get help they need from the UW-Extension.

Pointing out how Republican policies hurt people who live in small communities and rural areas is something I wish Democrats in Wisconsin and other states did much more often. However, unlike some other states, reaching out to rural voters is a necessity for Democrats to win statewide in Wisconsin for two reasons: Hard-partisan voters and the urban Democratic strongholds of the state don’t provide Democrats with enough votes to win statewide in Wisconsin, and suburban areas, outside of the heavily-Democratic suburbs around Madison, are some of the most Republican areas in the entire country. This is something that isn’t a necessity in, for example, my home state of Illinois, since the Chicago suburbs aren’t as staunchly Republican as the Milwaukee suburbs in Wisconsin are, so Illinois Democrats can win statewide with either an urban-suburban coalition or an urban-rural coalition, with most Illinois Democrats preferring the former, which, sadly, leaves rural voters in Illinois mostly ignored by Democrats. However, the urban-suburban coalition can’t be formed in Wisconsin, because the Milwaukee suburbs are the strongest of the GOP strongholds in Wisconsin, so it would take an urban-rural coalition for Democrats to win statewide in Wisconsin.

In short, Scott Walker proposed a budget that either would or would have cut funding to rural school districts, septic tank replacement programs, rural road maintenance, rural health care, local government property insurance, and university extension programs in Wisconsin. This would result, or would have resulted, in a lower quality of education for rural children, rural Wisconsinites having a harder time paying for septic system replacement, lower-quality rural roads, rural Wisconsinites having a harder time getting the health care they need, taxpayers having to pay more for insurance of local government property, and Wisconsin farmers having a harder time getting help from the UW-Extension. While Rob Brooks, a Republican member of the Wisconsin State Assembly from Saukville, has outright admitted that Walker proposed a “crap budget”, the Republicans who run the Wisconsin State Legislature intend to keep some of Walker’s budget cuts that will make life for rural Wisconsinites harder.

Bruce Rauner thinks Illinois children are lab rats, threatens to veto opt-out bill

Later today, the Democratic-controlled Illinois House of Representatives is set to vote on legislation that would make it easier for Illinois parents to opt their school-age children out of state-mandated standardized testing.

However, Republican Governor Bruce Rauner has publicly threatened to veto the legislation if it hits his desk, claiming that Illinois would risk losing over a billion dollars in federal education funding if such a law were to be enacted. As Jim Vail, a Chicago Public Schools (CPS) teacher and the author of the progressive education blog Second City Teachers, pointed out, Rauner’s claim is absolutely false for several reasons:

  • Seven states, California, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin, already have laws on the books explicitly allowing for parents to opt-out their children from standardized testing, and efforts are underway in an eighth state, New Jersey, to enact a opt-out bill there.
  • The federal government has never withheld a state’s Title I education funding for low participation rates in standardized testing or for any other reason.
  • Illinois is currently operating under a federal waiver from portions of the federal No Child Left Behind law. The waiver exempts Illinois from the risk of facing federal penalties for low participation rates in standardized testing.
  • Congress is currently working on legislation that would completely eliminate the threat of states and school districts losing federal funding for having less than 95% of students participating in standardized testing.

It’s 100% clear to me that Rauner thinks that our state’s schoolchildren are laboratory rats who should be subjected to standardized testing and other neoliberal education policies that make education less interesting for our schoolchildren, shame teachers and students, and make a total mockery of K-12 education in this country. It’s time to end the plantation mentality in our education system by eliminating mandatory standardized testing altogether, ending the overemphasis on career preparation, and crafting strong education standards where teachers teach to the standards, not to standardized tests.

Bruce Rauner cuts funding to programs that help Illinoisans with autism

Republican Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner cut funding for programs to help Illinoisans with autism succeed in life on, of all days, World Autism Day:

State funding cuts are threatening services for people living with autism, as families who receive help through a program called the Autism Project say they will be devastated by its elimination.

The Autism Project says Gov. Bruce Rauner confirmed the decision to cut funding for the remainder of the 2015 fiscal year Thursday – on World Autism Day.

Rauner’s decision to cut funding for autism programs on World Autism Day is downright cruel and will leave thousands of Illinoisans with little or no chance of being able to live anything resembling a normal life. Here’s some of the great things that autism programs here in Illinois have done:

Timotheus J. Gordon is working on his masters in fine arts from IIT, something he never dreamt was possible without the help he got from the Illinois Autism Project (TAP).

“Where else can I go to get help?” Gordon said.

[…]

TAP educates, comforts and funds resource rooms, such as one in the West Side’s Hope Learning Center, so parents and kids can feel, as they say, “normal.”

“TAP is there for all of these kids, I can go there and I can get visual boards made, I can go there and I can cry to them, they will hold my hand and give me the support I need,” said Vanessa Falling, the parent of an autistic 4-year-old.

Sadly, the opportunity for Illinoisans with autism to be able to live something resembling a normal life is gone for thousands of Illinoisans thanks to Bruce Rauner’s cruel decision to cut funding to autism programs.

Bruce Rauner: Republican for Cancer

Republican Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner proposed funding cuts to, among other things, the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (IBCCP) in his state budget, as well as cuts to programs designed to encourage Illinoisans to end their addiction to tobacco products.

These cuts are strongly opposed by the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), which issued this statement in opposition to the proposed cuts:

IBCCP helps thousands of women get their doctor-recommended mammograms every year, connecting uninsured and underinsured Illinois women with potentially life-saving screenings. From 2007 to 2012, the state program detected 727 invasive breast cancers and 1,490 cervical cancers and precancerous lesions.

Maintaining funding and eligibility for IBCCP will preserve a critical safety net for thousands of women in our state who will not qualify for Medicaid this year. It’s our hope the General Assembly will restore cuts to this program for the sake of all Illinois women.

Illinois’ tobacco prevention and cessation programs have made great strides in reducing youth and adult smoking rates. However, the state currently spends only nine percent of the Centers for Disease Control’s recommended funding level, jeopardizing lives that could be saved by reducing tobacco use.

Tobacco not only leaves a serious mark on our state’s physical health. It also places a heavy burden on its economic health. This year, smoking will cost Illinois more than $8.3 billion, further straining its already difficult financial situation. Maintaining funding for tobacco prevention and cessation would be a wise use of state dollars. It would help prevent needless tobacco-related deaths and reduce the excessive costs of tobacco use.

We understand Illinois continues to face tough financial choices, but fighting cancer should always be a top policy priority. We look forward to reviewing Governor Rauner’s complete budget proposal and working with lawmakers to restore funding to these critical programs.

Make no mistake about it, Bruce Rauner’s barbaric budget would result in more Illinoisans being diagnosed with cancer due to a lack of state funding for programs that make it easier for Illinois women to receive breast and cervical cancer screenings, as well as encourage Illinoisans to end their addiction to cancer-causing tobacco products. Bruce Rauner is not compassionate, and he apparently doesn’t realize how devastating cancer can be to those who are affected by it.

I hope that the Illinois General Assembly restores funding to breast and cervical cancer screening programs and tobacco cessation programs, and, if necessary, overrides any kind of Rauner veto to these programs.

The Progressive Response to the Illinois State Budget Address

In his budget address today, Republican Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner proposed a draconian budget that, among other things, includes deep cuts to Medicaid, higher education, and other important government services that many Illinoisans rely on and help make our economy strong. While our state’s current fiscal situation is unsustainable, Rauner’s budget proposal would actually make Illinois even worse off than it is now.

In his budget, Rauner proposed deep cuts to Medicaid, which thousands of Illinoisans who are not well off rely on in order to make health care more affordable for them. While any actual waste in the Medicaid program (Medicaid payouts to deceased people, etc.) should be eliminated, taking away health care benefits from people who rely on them would bankrupt thousands of Illinois families. Additionally, Rauner proposed taking money from higher education and giving it to K-12 schools in our state. While our state’s K-12 system needs more funding, to cut funding from our state’s public universities and community colleges in order to do so is the wrong way to do so. Additionally, Rauner proposed freezing property taxes and cutting state funding to local governments around the state. This would force many municipalities to cut police departments, street maintenance crews, and other important services, if not outright eliminate local government altogether.

In his budget speech, Rauner proposed gutting pensions, workers’ compensation, and unemployment insurance, as well as making it harder for Illinoisans to sue those who have wronged them in a significant way and make the Illinois tax code even more tilted toward the wealthiest people in our state than it currently is. To put that another way, Rauner wants to screw Illinoisans over and get away with it, as well as make it easier for businesses and other people and groups to screw Illinoisans over and get away with it.

Additionally, Rauner used his budget speech to advocate for items that do not belong in a state budget or budget speech, such as a proposed state constitutional amendment to enact term limits for many of our state’s elected officials. If it’s not a fiscal item, it doesn’t belong in a state budget or budget speech, and bringing up non-fiscal items in a budget speech is purely political grandstanding.

In his speech, Rauner compared himself to Abraham Lincoln and claimed that his budget would make Illinois a more prosperous state. First off, Rauner is no Lincoln. Lincoln believed that “labor is the superior of capital”. Rauner believes that capital is the superior of labor. It’s clear to me that Rauner has a completely different political philosophy than that of Lincoln. Also, while the bottom line of Rauner’s budget proposal may look good, what is inside Rauner’s budget is what really matters, and Rauner’s budget would make millions of Illinoisans far worse off than they currently are and lead to even worse fiscal crises in the future.

Scott Walker’s barbaric budget eliminates the Wisconsin Idea and forces UW System faculty to work without pay starting in mid-2016

Wisconsin Governor and likely Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker’s barbaric budget includes, among other things, the destruction of the University of Wisconsin System (UW System), Wisconsin’s network of two-year and four-year colleges and universities.

First off, the third Walker budget includes a provision that would eliminate the search for truth, which is effectively the current primary mission of the UW System, and the Wisconsin Idea, which outlines the mission of the UW System to serve the people of Wisconsin, from the UW System’s mission statement and would replace it with a mission statement that effectively makes serving Big Business interests the UW System’s primary mission. While Walker has tried to claim that the budget provision removing truth and the Wisconsin Idea from the mission statement is a “drafting error”, I think Walker’s claim is hogwash for a couple of reasons. One, I’ve made plenty of drafting errors as a political blogger, but I’ve never managed to rewrite the entire mission statement of a state college or university system in one of my drafting errors. Two, I firmly believe that Walker included that provision simply to pander to the far-right Tea Party crowd in states like Iowa and New Hampshire, both of which hold early contests for the Republican presidential nomination, only to backtrack from it after he submitted the proposal to the Republican-controlled Wisconsin State Legislature and Walker got questioned by the media over it.

Secondly, there’s something very unusual in Walker’s budget proposal:

If you look at the “FY17 Recommended” column in the “Full-Time Equivalent Position Summary”, you’ll notice that not a single penny is appropriated to full-time faculty member salaries. If Walker’s budget were to be enacted in its current form, starting in July of 2016, when Wisconsin State Fiscal Year 2017 begins, professors and other full-time faculty members at UW System colleges and universities would be required to work without pay. While most college professors work because they love teaching higher education and conducting research in order to make their communities, state, and country a better place to live, I’m almost certain that very few, if any, college professors would work without any pay at all, even though most college professors are interested in doing much more than earning a paycheck. Forcing UW System college professors to work without pay would significantly hurt Wisconsin’s economy, especially areas of Wisconsin in or near a UW System institution, and is, to put it mildly, absolutely cruel. Walker has yet to give one of his absurd explanations for eliminating UW System full-time salaries in his latest state budget.

Unfortunately, this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how barbaric Scott Walker’s latest Wisconsin budget proposal is. As a Illinois resident, the thought of Walker being anywhere near the White House gives me nightmares.