Local Youth Learn About the Illinois State Budget Crisis
January 20, 2016 | Chicago, IL
Youth in the Erie House Visionaries program developed infographics like this one, inspired by The Simpsons, to help explain the state budget impasse.
This past year, Erie Neighborhood House teamed up with the Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA) to present a workshop on the Illinois state budget crisis to youth program participants of both organizations. Utilizing information and exercises provided by the Grassroots Collaborative’s Revenue Training of Trainers program, Erie House and LSNA staff crafted a presentation specifically designed for teenagers.
“I think it’s important for our participants to learn about this as they are the ones in the programs that are being cut,” says Erie House YOU digital media coordinator Riza Falk. “They really need to understand why cuts are happening and what they can do to help."
The conversation about the state budget typically revolves around cuts. “All we hear is ‘cut, cut, cut,’ and we need to change the conversation,” Falk explains. While Governor Rauner and others are looking at “non-essential” programs to cut or freeze funding to, activists are urging the Governor to turn his attention to revenue. The state’s main source of revenue comes from income tax, property tax and sales tax.
The presentation given at the workshop focuses on the wealth inequalities inherent in our current income taxing structure; for example, those who earn the least, less than $19,000 per year, pay nearly three times more in taxes as a percentage of their income than those who earn the most, $498,000 per year or more. This makes Illinois’ tax system regressive, meaning that those who are least able to afford it pay a higher effective tax rate than those who could easily afford to pay more.
Over the past few months, the YOU Visionaries program has been working on infographics that depict the information taught in the workshop. “We’ve been working on posters that show, in an interesting way, the wealth inequalities that have caused the current budget crisis,” says Visionaries participant Zavier Redding. One of these posters, designed by participant Deysi Garcia and her team, is Scooby-Doo themed. The infographic shows the gang on a hunt to find solutions to stop “non-essential” programs such as mental healthcare, childcare, and youth programs, like Visionaries, from being shut down. Each budget cut is depicted by a monster but much like in Scooby-Doo, under the scary mask, or the budget cut, the truth, or solution in this case, is revealed.
The Visionaries program hopes to share these posters with the Grassroots Collaborative and other organizations so that they may utilize them in their workshops and future actions. Meanwhile, program participants like Garcia are hoping for a brighter future for Illinois. “There needs to be a state budget,” Garcia explains in frustration. “Nonprofit organizations like Erie House and the low-income families that rely on them are hurting. The governor needs to step up and do what is right.”