Local families joined Ammons, Bennett to discuss Rauner's budget

By Atoosa Sayeh





Champaign-Urbana families joined State Rep. Carol Ammons, D-Urbana, and State Sen. Scott Bennett, D-Champaign, to discuss Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed budget cuts on Monday.

About 100 local families joined Ammons and Bennett at the Developmental Services Center in Champaign to speak out against Rauner’s efforts to reduce and eliminate funding for a number of services, including home heating assistance, child care services, medical care, and higher education funding.

“Illinois’ budget is not numbers, it’s not statistics; these numbers are real people with real families,” Ammons said. “We believe, as members of the House of Representatives, that we have a responsibility to fight for jobs for middle class families, to protect the services for those who are really struggling. The people in this room represent the middle class that are trying to simply protect their families, and protect the services that are vital at this time in Illinois.”

Local residents discussed how Rauner’s budget would take a toll on families because his proposed budget cuts would cut funding for multiple programs that are vital for people in the community.

Kristina Rath, office support specialist for the office for student conflict resolution, spoke out about her eleven-year-old son who was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and how Rauner’s proposed budget cuts will affect her family.

“Without the autism program, my family would not have benefited from the new diagnosis training program, which provided indispensable face-to-face education and support at the most terrifying, lonely, and desperate time in our lives,” Rath said. “One of Illinois’ proposed 2016 budgets aims to eliminate the autism program’s entire 4.3 million in funding beginning July 1.”

Rath said nearly 46,000 children in Illinois age 18 and under have some form of autism and without the autism program, those children will face significant delays in diagnosis.

Other members in the audience came up to the stand to voice their concerns with the proposed budget cuts. They discussed how there would be funding cuts for programs like the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, and other programs that help families.

Suzanna Pangburn, CU autism board member, discussed how her medically-complex child would be affected if the Developmental Services Center loses some of its funding.

“His very first speech therapist was here at DSC. These programs have been absolutely the backbone to his support and his development and that’s why he can speak as well as he does today,” Pangburn said. “He still has a long way to go and we’re looking forward to having DSC to support us.”

Ammons and Bennett plan to take the stories they heard at the meeting to Springfield tomorrow and discuss a balanced approach with Gov. Rauner about his proposed budget cuts. If Rauner’s proposed budget plan is approved, his funding cuts would begin on July 1.

“When we go back we’ll have to take back the budget the governor vetoed last spring and I don’t think I’m the only one in this room disappointed by the governor’s actions,” Bennett said. “So we’re going to ask the governor to come back to the table and reach a balanced approach and a balanced budget that’s going to address the means that we are trying to put forth, and protect the most at-risk members of our community.”

Ammons said the House of Representatives and the Senate are trying to use a balanced approach and reach a negotiation with the governor to protect the most vulnerable citizens in our society.

“We have focused a lot on making sure that we keep the communications open with the governor’s office while at the same time representing the most vulnerable in our state: the disabled, the children, the working families, the victims of child abuse,” Ammons said. “We’ve invited people that represent the budget to this discussion so that you, the community, as well as the governor’s office, can put a face to the number that they’re discussing as they go forth.”

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