Citizen Action delegates call for health care

PEORIA, Ill. – “Stand Up! Keep Fighting!” was the theme of Illinois Citizen Action Convention here, Dec. 7. The 200 delegates were in an upbeat mood about the statewide Republican Party rout here but worried about the Republican victories nationally. Among the main concerns were builidng progressive power, the state budget crisis and health care for all.

By unanimous vote, the delegates, who represented unions, seniors, consumer activists and community organizations, also passed a special resolution for peace.

During a panel, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) identified herself as from the “democratic wing of the Democratic Party.” She called for a new Democratic Party strategy, going “where the Republicans won’t go.”

The new strategy, Schakowsky said, should demand “economic patriotism,” including stimulating the economy from the bottom up rather than giving tax cuts to the rich.

State Senator Barak Obama said the Democratic Party must project a broader vision. They should counter the Republican tax cuts for the rich with their own program of tax cuts for people with lower incomes.

Gary Chico, former Superintendent of Chicago Public Schools, called for increased funding for better schools and to attract more teachers. Chico said that Illinois is number five in payment of federal taxes but 47 in federal support to education.

A panel on Progressive Solutions to the State budget crisis continued the discussion of economic issues. Ralph Martire of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability said Illinois ranks 47 in state income tax and ranks 48 in services. He called for an increase in the flat state income tax of 1.5 percent. In answer to this reporter’s question about raising the personal exemption to shield lower incomes from the tax increase, Martire claimed that should be handled by a tax refund to low incomes.

John Cameron, speaking for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, whose members are facing layoffs, said 47 percent of Illinois residents want corporate taxes raised. His union is pushing for an 18-month Sunset Bill, ending a billion dollars of tax credits for corporations, credits that in most cases are pure giveaways.

The convention ended with workshops on health care, public transit, campaign funding and school environmental concerns.

Citizen Action and the Illinois Alliance of Retired Americans will team up to pass the State Senior Citizen Discount Drug Bill in early 2003. This bill provides for mass purchase of medicines by the State with the discount passed along to seniors and the disabled. It will be the first victory on the road to Universal Health Care with single payer.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org