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Thursday, May 17, 2012 03:45 pm

Action Now protests federal budget cuts

Group says it’s confused about Johnson’s vote

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U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson

A group of 15 to 20 individuals and members of Action Now gathered outside Republican headquarters in Springfield May 10 to protest and question the decision making of U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson.  

Johnson, R-Urbana, who previously had shown support for the recently passed $ 3.6 trillion federal budget chaired by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., voted against the budget May 10.     

The House GOP budget will spare the military’s budget from being cut, but instead will cut $83 billion in federal retirement benefits, slash nearly $48 billion from Medicaid programs and cut food aid by over $36 billion.

Despite Johnson’s vote against the budget, members of Action Now, a nonpartisan Chicago-based organization that campaigns for equal rights, equal services and equal justice for working families, questioned why Johnson suddenly had a change of heart about the budget.    

Madeline Talbott, a lead organizer for Action Now, said it was unclear to the organization why Johnson changed his mind about supporting the budget.

“He (Johnson) had previously shown support for a worse budget than what was passed, so we really wonder why he changed his mind,” Talbott said. “We wanted to get his attention with the protest and ask him, ‘Did you vote against the Paul Ryan budget because you felt it didn’t go far enough with cutting programs that we really need?’ Or is it because now that he is retiring he feels like he can actually vote in the people’s interest…we are just confused about his decision making.”

In March, Johnson won the GOP primary in the new 13th congressional district, but then announced he was dropping his bid for another term.

Talbott said the protest in Springfield was organized to give a voice to people who otherwise are not heard.

“We want to give a voice to working families and the unemployed because too often it feels like the guys in suits get heard in Illinois, but the regular working people go unheard,” Talbott said.

Talbott added that the protest also was meant to convey Action Now’s outrage with what they interpret as “giving tax cuts to the rich.”

“We want to raise the issue that there is something wrong with the current picture,” Talbott said. “Illinois is not a state filled with rich people, so we can’t be giving tax cuts to the rich and doing nothing for the regular people.”

Talbott, who was unable to attend the protest, said Action Now has received a lot of positive responses to the protest.      

Cilla Sluga, a lifelong resident of Springfield, said she attended the protest because she feels that Johnson isn’t doing a good job of listening to the people he represents.

“I worked my whole life and paid taxes and now I need some assistance and if I don’t get it, I go into a nursing home,” Sluga said in a press release from Action Now. “I’m a senior now and in a wheelchair. I need 12 hours of home care a week so Rep. Johnson needs to speak louder for my rights and tell his Republican friends to have their rich friends pay their taxes so I can live with some dignity in my own home.”

Sluga, a 62-year-old retired registered nurse who suffers from chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia, said she is especially displeased with Johnson wanting deeper budget cuts.

“He (Johnson) is talking about taking away our quality of life and the little bit of independence that we have left,” Sluga said. “I’m almost on the verge of tears when I think about it.”

Contact Neil Schneider at nschneider@illinoisitmes.

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