SPRINGFIELD – Just as Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner has taken to the airwaves in the fight over the state budget, a labor union representing home care workers is launching television ads this week to argue against cuts.

The Service Employees International Union, which represents 57,000 workers affected by the state budget, is running two 30-second ads in a number of television markets, including the Quad-Cities and the Springfield-Decatur area.

In one ad, Betty Wessing, an elderly woman who uses a walker, talks about the importance of a state program that allows her to stay at home. Without the home health care aide provided by the state, she said she could be forced into a nursing home.

She also takes a shot at Rauner, who was a businessman before becoming governor in January.

"The rich is just getting richer, the poor is just getting poorer," she says in the ad.

The ads come as Rauner and Democrats in the General Assembly are at loggerheads over a state spending plan. Rauner last week vetoed most of the budget sent to him by the legislature, saying it was unconstitutional because it was out of balance by more than $3 billion.

The move means Illinois is poised to start a new fiscal year Wednesday without a budget in place. Rauner wants the House and Senate to approve a property tax freeze, term limits, workers compensation reform and overhaul the political remapping process before he'll consider some kind of tax hike to close the gap.

"Showing the authentic and very real personal stories of people affected by Gov. Rauner's choices is part of our strategy because we know that the people of Illinois want to see these programs preserved," said James Muhammad, SEIU Healthcare Illinois vice president.

In a second SEIU ad, Terry Lango worries that his disabled brother, Wade, would have to go to a nursing home if he cannot get home care services provided by the state.

"He's going to a nursing home. And he's going to die in a nursing home. And I'll die too without him," Terry Lango says.

The timing of the ads also coincide with the expiration of SEIU's labor agreement with the state.

"Contracts for 57,000 child care and home health care workers expire June 30, and the governor has made demands and proposed budget cuts that would lead to massive layoffs and lead to enormous damage to our low-income workforce," Muhammad added.

The union declined to say how much the ads cost but called the campaign "unprecedented."

Rauner, meanwhile, is running ads worth more than $800,000 criticizing Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago.

"Illinois is at a crossroads," the female announcer says. "Mike Madigan and the politicians he controls refuse to change. They're saying 'no' to spending discipline, 'no' to job-creating economic reforms, 'no' to term limits. All they want is higher taxes. Again."

kurt.erickson@lee.net|(217) 782-4043


Springfield Bureau Chief for the Herald & Review

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