CHAMPAIGN — Scott Bennett may serve in the Illinois Senate and Carol Ammons in the Illinois House, but the two local legislators share frustration over the state budget impasse.
"This is a war we are waging for the future of our state," Bennett said.
"The budget is being held hostage," Ammons said.
The two legislators talked with about 70 people at a town hall meeting Thursday night about the ongoing battle between the Democratic General Assembly and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. The discussion took place at Carpenters Local 243, Champaign.
Bennett and Ammons said the budget impasse is affecting real victims in our area, including:
— Low-income residents who depend on the LIHEAP energy-assistance program to help pay utility bills.
— The laid-off staff at Lincoln's Challenge Academy and the at-risk students they serve.
— State employees whose paychecks depend on the passage of a budget.
— Low-income working parents who take part in the Childcare Assistance Program.
— Services for the disabled.
"Governor, it's not the budget you are leveraging; it's people you are leveraging," Bennett said.
"It is unfortunate that the governor is playing politics with people's lives," Ammons said.
Ammons criticized Rauner for putting what she called nonbudgetary issues in the way of passing a state budget.
"Can we talk about workers' compensation after the budget is passed?" Ammons said. "You (Rauner) want to talk about tort reform? Fine! But what does that have to do with the budget?"
"The governor is used to getting things his way for a long time, and it has carried over to the legislative process," Bennett said.
Ammons said part of the solution may be eliminating some corporate loopholes in the tax code to increase state revenue, but she said Republicans generally oppose that idea.
Bennett said the most important short-term goal is passing a 30-day budget "to keep the bare minimum functions going on."