More than 200 DuPage County residents gathered Friday at the county government complex to protest Gov. Patrick Quinn's proposed budget cuts to human services programs.
Quinn has targeted human services program funding in the wake of the legislature's refusal to pass a state income tax increase.
"My focus is to not blame one party," said Kathryn Nelson, program director for the DuPage Federation on Human Services Reform. "Both parties own this problem. I'm not going to say Quinn betrayed me; both parties betrayed me."
The protest in Wheaton was organized by the Downers Grove-based Ray Graham Association. Officials there said several of their programs would be drastically impacted if the proposed funding cuts are enacted. The programs include respite, residential and vocational services for people with disabilities and their families, officials said.
"We want our voices to be heard," said Cathy Ficker Terrill, CEO of the Ray Graham Association. "Society is judged on how we treat our most vulnerable."
Cathy Morton is worried her son, who is mentally challenged, will regress without the services Ray Graham provides.
"We need these types of programs to help people who can't help themselves," she said. "The government has decided to walk on the backs of the poor to keep the state going."
According to Ray Graham officials, a state survey of 52 human services agencies indicated nearly 58,000 individuals will no longer receive service if the cuts are enacted. The agencies also reported that more than 8,000 workers would lose their jobs and 26 community agencies would be shuttered. The cuts are slated to go into effect July 1.
Friday's protest was one of several that have occurred since the proposed budget reductions were announced last week. Republicans claim Quinn is "blackmailing" legislators with threats of social programming cuts to garner support for an income tax hike.
A spokeswoman for Republican state Rep. Sandy Pihos said Quinn shouldn't be targeting human services, but instead spreading cuts around various state departments. Quinn has urged legislators to return to Springfield to work on a compromise.
"I propose cutting all new spending from the 2010 budget, cutting 10 percent from all state agencies," Pihos wrote in a letter read by her team at the rally. "A moratorium should be placed on any new programs. I urge the governor and the four legislative leaders to consider these proposals and avoid future catastrophic decisions that will further hurt the integrity of this great state."