AARP

Daisy Contreras / NPR Illinois

The Illinois Capitol breathed a sigh of relief this summer when Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democratic-controlled legislature agreed on a state budget. But most Illinois voters say they’re not sure the deal will solve the state’s $1.2 billion deficit and other fiscal woes. That’s according to a new survey of registered voters conducted by AARP Illinois.

Sam Dunklau / NPR Illinois 91.9 FM

With primary season underway, AARP Illinois is ramping up efforts to educate voters before they head to the polls next month.

 

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If you feel no one is listening to your concerns about the state budget impasse, you’ll have a chance to be heard Thursday night.

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Illinois workers get an added bonus once they retire: They don't have to pay taxes on pension or Social Security checks. It's one possible change the state could look to as it hunts for more money.

Illinois is a rare state that taxes income on a regular paycheck, but not on retirement.

Fiscal experts like the non-partisan Civic Federation say as Illinois' population ages, and there are more seniors, the government will increasingly lose out on a source of revenue.

State leaders aren't discussing how Illinois can bring in more tax money; not yet anyway. Given the state's growing deficit they'll get there one day. The state's leading group for retirees is on the offensive over one particular tax break.

Thousands of senior citizens and persons with disabilities are waiting to learn if Illinois will change how it determines who qualifies for state aid and what kind of services are provided. As the state's embroiled in budget gridlock, it's one of the areas Governor Bruce Rauner tried to cut back on spending. But legislators (including a handful of Rauner's fellow Republicans, a rarity) voted to prevent that.

On Friday, Rauner used his veto powers in an apparent attempt to strike a balance.

Advocates for senior citizens and people with disabilities are assessing how action Friday by the Republican governor affects services they say they depend on.

Early this year, Gov. Bruce Rauner unveiled a plan to save money, by making it harder for the elderly and disabled individuals to qualify for government aid.

People not deemed needy enough would no longer receive state-provided home care workers, or state-paid nursing home care.

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner says he plans to raise eligibility levels for those senior citizens in Illinois’ Community Care program. Rauner says it’s necessary to help handle a budget Democrats’ passed without sufficient revenue.

The program helps keep seniors out of nursing homes by providing in-home health care, allowing them to remain independent. Gerardo Cardenas of AARP says the plan is short sighted as Medicaid will be forced to cover the cost of nursing homes.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Illinois' declining manufacturing sector led to one candidate for congress calling for repeal of a controversial free trade deal.  The North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, has been praised by those who see it as key to opening up new export markets.  But others say it has led to more outsourcing of jobs to other countries.  

Democrat Ann Callis of Edwardsville, who is seeking the 13th Congressional District seat, commented in a Tuesday debate in Springfield that she would support repealing NAFTA. 

Afterward, she walked back those comments:

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  The debate over state retiree pensions has been a consistent backdrop for the Illinois gubernatorial election, bringing older voters to the forefront of many debates. It's this senior voting bloc that could make all the difference this election.

The Illinois Building on the State Fairgrounds in Springfield is buzzing with activity. But it's not prized cattle or blue-ribbon pies fair attendees are taking in. Along one wall, it's an array of motor scooters. Along another, it's rows of booths offering different kinds of home care.

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The AARP says Illinois has improved opportunities for elderly people to remain in the community. But it says there are still too many living in nursing homes who need not be.

There are good reasons for helping seniors to stay independent, or at home, getting help -- and out of long-term care facilities.