An estimated 15,000 people gathered at the Capitol in Springfield Wednesday calling for a tax increase that could stave off major budget cuts. The gathering, dubbed the "Save Our State" rally virtually shut down traffic around the Capitol building and is expected to be one of the largest demonstrations ever in Springfield.
The State Journal-Register reports that the rally, sponsored by the Responsible Budget Coalition, includes 200 organizations from across the state. More than 250 buses brought thousands of people to Springfield from throughout Illinois.
"We tried to make it as big and as large as possible to get people's attention," said John Bouman, president of the Shriver Center in Chicago, which is part of the Responsible Budget Coalition.
State employees looking to head out for lunch were told to think again, and that it will be "virtually impossible" to leave the Capitol complex by car in the early afternoon, SJR reports.
The rally comes as support for Gov. Pat Quinn's proposed 1-percent income tax hike is lacking. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that last week, "a key legislative source estimated the $2.8 billion tax hike had only about 45 votes in the House, where 60 are needed."
Sen. Bill Brady, Quinn's Republican opponent, is against the tax hike--and has called a 10 percent across-the-board budget cut over ten years.
Those who would be most affected by the budget cuts if the tax hike does not succeed plan on making their case in Springfield Wednesday.
"I think it's a testament to the scale of the budget disaster and the terrible harm to these jobs and services that are needed now more than ever in this recession that so many folks from all over Illinois are coming together for this tremendous event," Anders Lindall told the State Journal-Register. Lindall is the spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which will be participating in the rally.
Buses from Chicago and suburbs have also headed south to address the budget crisis.
"The bottom line is, it hurts the kids," St. Charles Education Association President Pam Turriff told the Daily Herald of the budget cuts. "We just want to make the legislators aware that we all feel they need to step up to the plate and fund education for all kids."
Follow the Twitter feed from the rally here.
WATCH teachers discuss why they are rallying for a tax hike: