Tuesday, June 23, 2009

In Search of Budget, Governor Quinn takes to Populism in Capitol Rally

With words of solidarity and praise, Gov. Pat Quinn let nearly 5,000 social workers gathered at the Illinois capitol know where he stood Tuesday afternoon.

“There’s something wrong if there are political people in our state who think you can leave people behind, and cut the budget in a mean-spirited way, where we don’t have enough revenue for child care, for senior care, for healthy people to have a chance,” the governor said before a mass of protesters that filled the rotunda.

In the midst of a $9.2 rift in the state budget, a crisis made direr by the faltering economy, the Governor is counting on the unity of populism to save services and balance the budget. His proposal of temporarily increasing the personal income tax from 3 to 4.5 percent for two years to bridge the gap has met intense opposition.

“We understand when it’s very tough, in economic hard times, we aren’t going to throw anyone overboard, the Land of Lincoln, we make sure that we all go together and make sure where we get to where we’ve got to go, a better place for the people of Illinois, are taking good care of each other,” he said.

Quinn told protesters at the rally, meant to coincide with the beginning of the special budget session, that citizens would have to organize and use the “power of democracy” to before the end of the fiscal year, Tuesday, June 30, to avoid cuts to services.

Quinn’s excited tone at the rally was a stark difference from the somber “doomsday budget” rhetoric observed in interviews. Members of the punditocracy have commented that this was a tactic employed by Quinn’s predecessor, Rod Blagojevich, and as such may harm Quinn’s ambitions and image as governor.

As with much of the politics in Illinois, the success of any given campaign (or budget) can change by the minute, often drastically. With a call to populism, especially in times of a great socioeconomic schism, the fate of the budget may even be out of the hands of the governor, placed squarely in the possession of the people’s voices.

Demonstrators packed the rotunda, displaying a variety of signs, many of which declared "JUST FIX IT." This was also a slogan chanted throughout the rally.

Social service workers, representing all branches of service, lined up to enter the rotunda where Quinn and others spoke. The heat was oppressive, but did not seem to have an effect on those lobbying. Many were left out by security personnel at some point before Gov. Quinn's speech.

Demonstrators line up to enter the rotunda to lobby. The message at the rally was completely unified around the message of salvaging essential services.

Members of New Mexico-based SWOP, the SouthWest Organizing Project, were among organizers at the rally. Chartered buses surrounded the capitol building, as organizers filed out in multicolor shirts representing their respective causes.

Another picture of Gov. Quinn's speech to social workers in the rotunda.

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