It may be hotter than usual. But it is partisan politics that is causing the potential for the heat to get the best of us.
I’M REFERRING TO the measures that Gov. Bruce Rauner said last week would be essential because of the alleged budget proposal that was put together by the Democratic leadership of the General Assembly.
That budget calls for far more spending for government services than the state expects to have for revenue. The plan’s approval was meant to be a statement to make Rauner realize how short-sighted he is in persisting with his thoughts that he will not approve anything that calls for more revenue to be raised.
It was hoped that Rauner would (as John Belushi’s “Jake Blues” character would say) “see the light” and come to his senses in approving some sort of revenue enhancer for the upcoming fiscal year.
Instead, Rauner is persisting with his talk, and came up with cuts that would balance what he calls the “phony Madigan-Cullerton budget.”
MUCH ATTENTION HAS been paid to the fact that the cuts would wipe out the Illiana Tollway construction, close several state juvenile corrections facilities and work camps that create jobs in their rural communities, wipe out the state’s fleet of airplanes AND close all five state-operated museums.
But Rauner also included the suspension of the state’s contribution to the Low Income Heating Assistance Energy Program. Come July 1, the program in Illinois will only exist with the portion of funds provided by the federal government.
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That’s about $170 million. Which sounds like a significant amount of funds. But it really isn’t.
For those people who aren’t aware, LIHEAP is a program that offers help to low-income people in terms of paying their utility bills. It’s a $150 payment to electric providers on behalf of people who can show a medical condition that would be improved by air conditioning or heat.
THEY OFFER HELP during the winter months when the need to have the heat going often causes the bills to go up. Also needed is help during the summer months when the need for air conditioning can also cause the utility bill to skyrocket.
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Because let’s be honest. Utility bills can be a factor that makes or breaks a person on a fixed income. It can be an uncertainty that can devastate someone who has to count every penny of their income – because there just isn’t any additional funds to be found.
As a reporter-type person, I have done my fair share of stories about people who were found dead either because of extreme cold (during the winter) or heat exhaustion (during the summer).
These LIHEAP grants try to help people whose physical existence would be at risk by the weather extremes that can be a life-or-death issue for those with lower incomes.
NOW I REALIZE that Rauner’s actions are political rhetoric in-and-of themselves. He’s trying to scare Dem types into accepting the business-oriented rhetoric he wants placed in state law by threatening to make these kinds of cuts if they don’t get with his program.
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It may also appeal to those ideologue types who probably view LIHEAP’s existence as an affront – as though heat and air conditioning is some sort of luxury that poor people aren’t entitled to.
Now I don’t doubt that the Illinois Legislature’s leadership, particularly Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, is capable of playing political hard-ball at an equal level. But let’s be honest – this is the level to which this particular political fight has the potential to sink. If this cut goes through, somebody is going to have to decide which low-income people will still get help with their utility bills. As for the rest, they get nothing.
Or perhaps the thought process going through certain rather abhorrent political minds is, “Let them sweat!!!”