Advocacy – Our Voices Make a Difference!
Did you know that Trinity Lutheran has members who participate in state advocacy through an organization called Lutheran Advocacy-Illinois? These are folks who feel passionately about helping to shape the policies and institutions in our state in ways that reflect our understanding as Christians of how God asks us to care for all people.
Do you have this passion? If so, check out www.lutheranadvocacy.org for more information. And, please contact Lydia Olson or Victoria Flood (email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or call the church office and leave a message) to join the advocacy team here at Trinity Lutheran. Advocates generally do their work by responding to e-mails asking them to contact their state representatives when key legislation is being considered.
In May, the work of the advocates was to advocate with state representatives for a responsible budget – one that does not continue to cut funding for human services. Lutheran Advocacy-Illinois joined with many other organizations in this effort, including Lutheran Social Services of Illinois. Friends of Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI) joined with thousands of other concerned citizens across Illinois during the week of May 3, 2010, to tell state lawmakers to pass a responsible budget. The Responsible Budget Coalition (RBC), which LSSI helps to lead, produced more than 3,000 phone calls and a stunning 300,000 e-mail messages to lawmakers in a single week!
Below is some more information (as of the middle of May 2010) about how the voices of advocates are making a difference!
State Budget Update – May 12, 2010
On Friday, May 7, the Illinois General Assembly left Springfield with their most important piece of business—crafting a state budget for the fiscal year that begins in seven weeks—unfinished. That stalemate should be considered a VICTORY for those of us who support a responsible state budget! Budget proposals that were being considered would have relied on unsustainable funding streams, massive borrowing and expanding the delinquency of state payments for services provided by community-based human service providers. For many years, we at Lutheran Social Services of Illinois and our advocacy partners at Lutheran Advocacy—Illinois have supported comprehensive tax and budget reform that would: 1.Provide sufficient and sustainable revenue to fully fund all vital state services 2.Use tax credits and other measures to ease the tax burden on low and moderate income households.
We have supported a comprehensive tax and budget reform proposal often referred to as Senate Bill 750. In the current legislative session, the reforms we have supported have been written into House Bill 174 (as it was amended in the State Senate in May, 2009). As passed by the Senate last year, HB 174 would:
1.Increase the personal income tax from 3% to 5% 2.Expand the state sales tax to apply to many services—especially luxury services like fur storage, limousine leasing, etc.—that are not taxed in Illinois but are taxed in surrounding states 3.Offset the tax increase through credits and deductions for low and moderate income families.
Without the new revenue that would be produced by HB 174 or similar legislation, there is no way that Gov. Quinn and members of the General Assembly can patch together a responsible budget. Instead, they will have to rely on more of the “smoke and mirrors” gimmicks that contributed to the state’s financial crisis in the first place.
What can we do?
Right now, while most members of the General Assembly are in their home districts, is a great time to reinforce the message we have been sending all year: We expect our state leaders to LEAD and to make hard choices on behalf of all the people in Illinois, not just in the interest of their own elections. New revenue, along the lines of HB 174 MUST be a part of the budget solution NOW, not sometime down the road. When lawmakers return to Springfield in a week or two, they should do the right thing and adopt a responsible budget that includes revenue reform to provide sufficient and sustainable funding for state services. Even if you have made calls or sent an e-mail message to your elected officials in the past, please contact them again and reinforce your message. Make sure your elected officials know that you are keeping an eye on what they do in Springfield, that you care, and that you expect lawmakers to be responsible. For additional information on the current budget crisis, please visit the Responsible Budget Coalition at www.abetterillinois.com or the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability at www.ctbaonline.org. You can, of course also contact me for more information.
Living in hope!
Daniel Schwick, Assistant to the President
Lutheran Social Services of Illinois
Director, Office of Church and Government Relations
andDirector, Lutheran Advocacy--Illinois
1001 E. Touhy Ave. #50
Des Plaines, IL 60018