Residents protest budget impasse and cuts to funding


Lou Foglia

(From left) State Representatives Will Guzzardi and Christian Mitchell called on Gov. Bruce Rauner to eliminate tax breaks for the wealthy before a Nov. 2 protest.

By Metro Reporter

forty-one people were arrested for blocking entrances to the Chicago Board of Trade Building at 141 W. Jackson St. during a Nov. 2 protest that began at the James R. Thompson Center, according to Kristi Sanford,  communications director for Fair Economy Illinois.

Protesters flooded Thompson Square, 100 W. Randolph St.,  holding signs urging higher taxes for the rich. Many wore T-shirts supporting their cause. TV cameras flanked the speakers at the front of the crowd while others passed out chant sheets and organized those present.

Also under fire were the state budget impasse and the lack of funding for healthcare, public services and higher education. 

“Our governor decided he would rather destroy wages [and] protections for working people than ask his wealthy buddies to pay a fair share,” said Rep. Christian Mitchell (D-IL).

Mitchell was one of many at the protest, which he said was organized by Illinois Indiana Regional Organizing Network.

Gov. Bruce Rauner delivered his budget address Feb. 18, but the budget, which proposed deep cuts in social services, has yet to be passed.

“Far too long [the state] has been living beyond [its] means—spending money that Illinois taxpayers could not afford. This budget is honest with the people of Illinois, and it presents an honest path forward,” Rauner said in his budget address.

Members of National Nurses United, including Martese Chism, the organization’s president also attended the protest.

“People need to realize when they give a tax break to corporations, [they] are taking money from the poor, and that’s why we’re here. We’re fed up, we’re sick and tired, and it’s time to fight back,” Chism said.

She said she thinks it is wrong for social service programs to be cut, especially those that support poor people, higher education and

public transportation.

“Instead of giving tax breaks to the corporations that don’t need it, we could provide free tuition to the college kids in Illinois,” Chism said. “The government is for the people, and the funding needs to go to the people.”

National Nurses United member Romona Cetnar, who also participated in the protest, said she wants every U.S. resident to have access to basic healthcare.

“People don’t understand what they don’t get with their insurance coverage, because you’re not told—you’re not told you’re not going to get the best cancer drug and you’re not told what treatments you can’t have in the hospital,” Cetnar said.

Paul Ortiz, who protested with the Urban Village Church, said he wants increased taxes for the wealthy and more funding allocated to social services.

He said a few members of his church expected to get arrested at the protest and that he knew protesters would be blocking something but did not share any other details. Ortiz later confirmed that two of his friends were arrested.

Sanford added that those who were arrested for blocking the entrance to the Chicago Board of Trade building were demanding a meeting with the Board of Trade’s executive chairman Terrence Duffy.

“This is people coming together, talking to their neighbors, talking to their friends mobilizing their churches, and I couldn’t be prouder to be here,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said he is the chief sponsor of a bill to institute a progressive income tax, meaning the taxes residents pay would increase according to their income level.

Rauner told reporters on July 8 that he would raise the state income tax if his budget was adopted, according to a July 8 WGN-TV report.

Earlier in his Turnaround Budget address, Rauner predicted a 2016 budget hole of $6.2 million even if his 2015 budget is adopted.

“Now is the time to start on a responsible path after years of financial recklessness,” Rauner said in his address. “Instilling discipline is not easy, saying ‘no’ is not popular, but it is now or never for Illinois.”

Mitchell said he wants Rauner to think about the harsh effects of his budget.

“I hope the governor hears loud and clear [that] the things he is doing—maybe in the abstract don’t seem to be consequential to him—but in truth, are devastating to working people,” Mitchell said.