(Chicago, IL) – August 10, 2010. The Illinois budget crisis has brutalized a range of Illinois human service programs during the last two years, prompting the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities, to back a campaign to rally Illinois voters with developmental disabilities and their families to vote in the Nov. 2 election.
During the next three months the state disability panel will be pushing the ”VoteMyWay” effort to collect thousands of voting “pledges” from people with developmental disabilities and their families, supplying an outlet to communicate with the candidates for statewide office.
“When you combine the 200,000 people who have a developmental disability in Illinois with their families and loved ones, you have a community with the power to make a big difference in the upcoming election,” said Tony Paulaski, a VoteMyWay advocate and Executive Director of The Arc of Illinois.
“With so much at stake, this campaign is really about ensuring they make their voices heard in the form of their vote.”
VoteMyWay is ironically roaring to life as Govern Pat Quinn last week announced deeper than expected cuts to the Illinois Department of Human Services which funds state disabilitiy services.
Last week Quinn brushed aside the original $312 million cut from the Illinois Department of Human Services, upping the reductions to $576 million or 14% of last year’s human services budget. Much of that came by further cutting grants, from $262 million announced in July to $515 million today.
Quinn’s cuts prompted even conservative State Senator Dave Syverson (R-Rockford) to recoil.
“I think that there’s a frustration that human service providers are once again taking the brunt of the cuts, and this after the massive pay raises that took place. It’s just not something that sits very well with a lot of people in Illinois,” he said.
Last month, Quinn granted salary raises of up to 20 percent for some of his closest aides.
In fact, the Quinn’s cuts to human services have been harsher than budget cuts theoretically pledged by his GOP gubernatorial opponent, State Senator Bill Brady (R-Bloomington). Brady has pledged a 10% “across the board” budget cuts. Under this scenario, a Brady budget this year would have spared the agency $171 million in cuts.
The irony of a lesser human services budget hit under the conservative Brady than under the liberal Quinn is dawning on some progressives.
“The governor’s ‘shared sacrifice’ budget mantra is a joke,” said one human services lobbyist who requested anonymity in order to speak frankly. “Human services has unevenly and unfairly born the brunt of Quinn’s budget ax over the last two years. We would have come out better under Brady.”
“And don’t get me started on his staff raises as human service agencies are all eliminating staff and client care,” the lobbyist fumed.
The state-backed VoteMyWay initiative, which resembles a campaign get-out-the-vote operation, is counting on the disabled making their voices heard and votes counted, like Chicago-area resident Jessica Martin.
“If you are silent, you don’t get what you want in life,” said Martin, a 23-year-old from Des Plaines who was born with Cerebral Palsy. “When you have a disability, it’s important for people like me to stand up for what they believe in because then you can change the world and change your life.”
How they cast those votes between Quinn and Brady may yield a surprise.
There are 84 days until election day.