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Illinois Rally Urges Adequate Funding for Public Services

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow called it "the un-tea party movement"—the 15,000-strong "Save Our State" rally April 21 on the grounds of the Illinois Capitol in Springfield. Rally-goers, including members of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, called on the state's General Assembly to pass tax increases to fund public education and state services.

"This is a fight for Illinois' future, everybody's future," IFT president and AFT vice president Ed Geppert Jr. told the crowd. "Education. Public safety. Human services. And all the vital programs. We cannot stand by and watch our children's education or our seniors be harmed by inaction in this Capitol."

The gathering—there were 85 rally-goers for every member of the General Assembly—was the largest rally crowd at the statehouse since the era of the Equal Rights Amendment more than a quarter-century ago, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Geppert and other speakers called on lawmakers to act responsibly, do their jobs and raise the revenues that are desperately needed to fund public services. The state's budget deficit for fiscal year 2011 is estimated at more than $13 billion.

"There is a solution," said Geppert. "The General Assembly in the House has it in front of them: HB 174. It is there to be passed to address these issues."

HB 174 would, among other things, broaden the sales-tax base to include some three dozen consumer and luxury services; raise the individual income tax from 3 percent to 5 percent; and increase the corporate income tax from 4.8 percent to 5 percent. Without additional revenue, public employee layoffs—including K-12 teachers and state employees—are expected to register in the tens of thousands. No number can be placed on what those layoffs mean to communities in terms of larger class sizes and restricted access to public services.

The Save Our State rally was organized by the Responsible Budget Coalition, a coalition of more than 200 organizations, including the IFT, other labor unions, and community and religious groups. [Kathy Walsh]

April 23, 2010