SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Bruce Rauner’s efforts to cut social-service costs in the state budget came under attack Monday during a rally mostly dedicated to combating “extremism” in the political system nationwide.
“What Gov. Rauner and legislators who stand with him are doing in our state is shocking, inhuman and immoral,” Gail Hamilton, 54, a Springfield home-care provider, said at a rally outside the Capitol attended by about 100 clergy, labor and other progressive activists.
The rally was part of the “Higher Ground Moral Day of Action” that was coordinated Monday in more than 25 capital cities and spearheaded by the Rev. William Barber, a North Carolina pastor and supporter of what has been called “liberal religious patriotism.”
Barber, who spoke at the Democratic National Convention in July, has said the nationwide event challenged "the theological malpractice of the so-called religious right that attempts to limit the moral discussion in the public square."
Hamilton, a member of the Service Employees International Union, referred to Republican Rauner’s efforts to eliminate overtime for care workers who serve disabled residents in their homes and to eliminate paid training opportunities for SEIU members.
“These are acts that are morally offensive to any decent society, where care to the ‘least of these’ should be the top priority,” Hamilton said. “The only thing he seems to care about are his billionaire buddies who benefit from the cuts he makes for those of us who do the heavy lifting to make our state work.”
SEIU Healthcare spokesman James Muhammad said the union also condemns Rauner’s cuts in eligibility for state-subsidized child care and the governor’s proposed cuts to the Community Care program. SEIU represents service providers in both of those programs.
The Rauner administration has said the cut in overtime — which Rauner temporarily suspended in August — would save the state money, reduce worker burnout and provide better care and more jobs in the long run.
The cost of training that SEIU wants is unaffordable, a Rauner spokeswoman said.
Administration officials have said the child care cut was needed because of the state’s precarious financial situation.
Aides to Rauner, who has fought with the Democratic majority in the General Assembly over his proposed pro-business, anti-labor “turnaround agenda,” said Rauner’s suggested changes in Community Care would make the program more efficient.
When asked to comment on Monday's rally, Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said in an emailed statement: “By now, the people of Illinois know the truth: We have a do-nothing supermajority in control of the legislature that says ‘no’ to everything. They’ve said no to a balanced budget, no to term limits, no to fair maps, and no to job-creating reforms. We need more reformers in the legislature who want to fix a broken system to help grow the economy, which will free up resources to help our most vulnerable.”
Other speakers at the rally said voters should support candidates who want to fight poverty, increase the minimum wage, provide more affordable housing, support equitable public education funding and expand access to health care.
The speakers said voters should reject candidates espousing extremist policies on the issues of abortion and prayer in schools, and oppose any legislation that would make it harder for people to vote.