Black lawmakers react to governor’s budget address

lightford budgreax0216The governor’s budget address fails to help college students, vulnerable residents and disenfranchised communities. This was the core belief expressed by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus at their budget press conference on Wednesday.

ILBC Chair Kimberly Lightford joined members in calling student activists and the governor to action. She challenged the governor’s proposal to sell an outdated, broken education funding plan as true reform and his failure to address higher education concerns.

“Funding our schools without reforming our unfair education system does more harm than good. No matter how much wealth you have, throwing money at a problem is not going to solve it without understanding the real issues at hand. Our decades-old funding formula has not done anything to meet the needs of today’s students. It has only led to the most regressive funding system in the nation."

“We cannot wait any longer to give Illinois children the education they need to compete in this ever-changing world. Resources are scarce in many schools, disproportionately affecting minority students in Chicago and across the state. Schools are choosing between keeping students warm and paying for up-to-date textbooks. We need fundamental changes now that will address these issues in real ways.”

“Sadly, for a whole year we’ve heard the same story about how we must turn around this state and what we have done is turn back to an era none of us needed to go back to,” said veteran budgeteer State Senator Donne Trotter. “The governor didn’t talk about what happens when we do not fund higher education, about our universities closing or about people closing their minds to coming to our state.”

Majority Caucus Whip Mattie Hunter addressed the governor’s failure to tackle mounting higher education concerns.

"The governor acknowledged the need for early childhood and K-12 education funding, yet refused to step up for college students who face an uncertain future. I attended Monmouth College to better my life. Young adults who find themselves in the same situation I found myself in – young adults who want to improve their lives just like I did, might have to quit school because he failed to keep his promise.”

Rep. Marcus Evans and Litesa Wallace criticized the governor’s lack of economic development for minority communities.

“I wanted the governor to talk about how he’s going to get businesses here. I want him to talk about the vocational programs and our community. We need a plan. We need leadership in Illinois,” said Rep. Evans. “The young people need jobs.”

“As social service agencies across the state continue to close doors and face uncertainty, it was disappointing to see the governor double down on an agenda that has and will continue to hurt families in Rockford. Despite his emphasis on economic development, the governor’s insistence on non-budgetary items has led to an unnecessary impasse that has hurt growth and shaken faith in the ability of our state to move forward. If we want Illinois to truly be competitive and be this region’s economic leader moving forward, we must put aside political agendas and put the people of Illinois first,” said Rep. Wallace.

The frustration over the governor’s continued reluctance to release a budget was best summarized by Rep. Elgie Sims.

“How do you present a budget and not release a budget? Even though we haven't "seen" a budget, what we have seen since the last budget address is Illinois' most vulnerable populations and middle-class families watch their standards of living decline. I remain ready and willing to work with the governor and my colleagues to pass a responsible budget, but that should not be predicated on issues that are unrelated to the budget."

Listen to ILBC members' reactions to the governor’s budget address:

Senator Kimberly A. Lightford

Senator Donne Trotter

Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins

Senator Toi Hutchinson

Senator Kwame Raoul

Senator Mattie Hunter

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