By Mara Ruff
February 27, 2015
With a new governor comes adjustment and transition. As seasoned legislators adapt to the new administration and state agencies undergo transformation, newly seated General Assembly members are also transitioning into their new roles.
On Feb.17, the day before Governor Bruce Rauner announced his proposed budget, State Sen. Chris Nybo and State Rep. Will Guzzardi joined the Jewish Federation’s Government Affairs Committee to talk about their first few weeks in office, priorities for this legislative session, and overall goals while in office.
Laura Prohov, vice president of community services at CJE SeniorLife, also spoke to members on what the impact on agency employees would be if the Illinois Department of Human Services were to run out of child care funds this March.
On the eve of the state budget reveal, Nybo said this year legislators will be forced to make very tough choices. “It is important to keep in mind that this is a process and not just a snapshot in time,” he said
Although in his first full Senate term, Nybo is not brand new to Springfield. He previously served a brief time in the Illinois House from 2011-2013. As part of the process, Nybo encouraged advocates and concerned community members to communicate with him on proposed legislation to better advance their positions. “These are as much our problems as they are yours,” he said.
This year, Nybo views creating new revenue as the biggest challenge facing the General Assembly. The question, he says, will be how much authority legislators will allow the governor to shift revenue streams in order to close the gaps on others.
Sworn in just a few weeks ago, Guzzardi, 28, is not only the youngest member of the General Assembly, but also the newest member of the Jewish caucus. He talked about what ought to happen and the responsibilities of the Jewish community given the current climate.
Knowing it will be a much different budget when it passes, Guzzardi spoke about the community’s responsibility to shape the state budget as an outwardly looking value, mentioning the biblical phrase “Justice, Justice you shall pursue.” He said it is time to get serious about revenue.
Closing the discussion, Prohov spoke on the impending lack of funding for child care needs and its potential effect on health and human agencies. CJE SeniorLife serves 2,300 older adults each year and provides services for 1,500 elders in the community. The issue of state child care funding, she said, is a very relevant issue to the daily function of CJE, even though CJE is not in the business of providing child care.
To qualify for funding, a person needs to make 185 percent of the poverty level or $29,000 a year. At CJE, 452 employees fit that profile. If people cannot come to work because they can no longer afford child care, it paralyzes the work force.
The state needs to find $1.5 billion to sustain the child care program. Nybo and Guzzardi both support the program, but suggest different approaches to closing the gap. Nybo mentioned moving money from specialized funds to the DHS, while Guzzardi would like to see the program saved through other means, rather than taking money from other needed services such as mental health.