Gov. Rauner’s harmful child care changes have turned the middle class into the needy class

Thank you for covering the subject of the unpassed state budget in your newspaper. However, it is equally important that we make the public aware of the dangerous threat to children, families and small business owners playing out in our state currently. Our elected officials have chosen to prioritize the political positioning of their parties over the livelihoods of those that elected them.

On July 1st, Gov. Rauner made harmful changes—without any legislative action or debate—to the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP). The biggest change is 90 percent of new families who met the previous required income eligibility and work requirements are being denied child care services through CCAP. This is forcing the working poor and students back into the welfare system because they cannot afford to pay for childcare while they work towards advancing themselves toward total independence.

As a child care provider and business owner, the changes Gov. Rauner made have put providers like me in a position of being unable to service these families and prepare the most vulnerable children for success. I have watched child care programs and providers close their doors after serving communities for more than 10 years. As a provider with over 24 years in this profession I have never seen such a disregard for the lives of the neediest and these changes are turning those who once were middle class into the needy class.

Gov. Rauners says that he is pro-business. It is time for the governor—and the General Illinois Asembly—to truly to be ‘pro-business’ and repeal these CCAP changes that damage our state and local economy and harm all children in our state.

— Levell R. Baker, CEO, Vision Builders Early Learning Center

The Illinois lottery — trick or treat?

The Illinois Lottery has taking away the joy of its billion dollar revenue game. Just like that, the bouncing balls are gone – no more live drawing on WGN.  The joy of watching your number pop up is gone, like a trick performed before your very eyes. The Lottery has chosen to allow a computer to pick the numbers for each of Illinois’ games. I don’t think many traditional players are going like the new style of operations, given the fact that some players played only hoping to see a treat, put up one by one with the bouncing balls.  This new style of operation will surely damage the relationship between the Lottery and its players.  

The state recently drew another trick out the bag – they recently announced that it will not pay out any winnings worth more than $600 until the state budget issues are resolved. 

Surprisingly, the announcement to only pay a maximum of $600 has not stopped the lottery from promoting the Halloween Millionaire Raffle. That’s right, the Lottery is promoting the $20 tickets and are selling chances to win $1,000,000 even after they have reported that they can only pay out $600. Now, any other business conducting itself in this manner would be illegal in any part of the world and would not be allowed to proceed in their operations. Given this state of affairs, I introduced House Bill 4316, which calls for the temporary suspension of lottery sales in Illinois until the Illinois Lottery can end the trick and treat its customers with honor and respect, paying the winners their full prize as advertised.    

The Illinois Lottery has been mismanaging by an outside firm hired to promote and sell its games and to bring in as much revenue as possible from the operation. I will be fair to the management company – they have nothing to do with the prize payouts, but they, too, have had a few tricks for Illinois. I continue to receive complaints about the Lottery management failing to pay some of their vendors, and also refusing to promote specialty games like the Red Ribbon Game, spearheaded by Ben Montgomery of the West Side of Chicago to help fight the spread of HIV/AIDS across Illinois.

It is clear to see that the Illinois Lottery is an embarrassment to our state.

Now, one of the biggest tricks of them all is the game the state plays with the revenue it generates from the many lottery games it sells. How the state plays with its lottery revenue is a trick, and the appropriation of lottery revenue has not been the treat for schools in Illinois, as it was promised to schools when the Lottery was introduced.

The late former Illinois State Senator and Comptroller Dawn Clark Netsch and many others have expressed regrets for their decisions to vote for the Illinois Lottery in the 1970s, because now the lottery money has taken the place of the state’s legal obligation to fund education with tax revenue. Illinois has come to depend on this source of revenue to help fund education in the state, and not consider revenue from the Lottery as extra revenue to help better fund our schools, as originally intended.

You may ask, well, where is the lottery money going? The money is going into the common school fund each year, but like the tricky shell game, the state pays a trick with the money by putting the money in the common school fund and then it takes the money back out of the common school fund. Illinois then puts the money in the general revenue fund and spends the money on other goods and services across the state of Illinois. You talk about a trick – it’s worse than the conman’s illegal Three Card Molly game we used to see while riding the bus or the train. 

A report I came across in the Chicago Reporter shows that since 1997, predominantly African American or Latino low-income Chicago communities have been tricked the most by the Illinois Lottery. Blacks and Latinos help to generate the highest lottery sales in the state. Communities such as the Austin community area in Chicago carry the biggest burden in the lottery distribution and sales, while at the same time win far less than other communities. Poorer areas of the state are buying a higher percentage of lottery tickets but continue to receive a smaller slice of the winning prize money and also have to contend with some of the worse schools in the United States. I thought the Lottery money was supposed to improve our schools – instead, the Lottery is draining money from our poorer communities and being distributed to communities that are better off. No treats for the West Side and other poorer communities– just tricks!

Maybe it is time to just say no to the Lottery – after all, how long can we continue to be tricked, while we receive no treats?

— State Rep. La Shawn K. Ford (8th