AARP Illinois hosted a forum in Moline Thursday night to learn how the state's financial crisis has affected Quad Cities residents. It was the latest in a series of Illinois Issues Forums co-sponsored with NPR Illinois.
AARP says the state has billions of dollars in unpaid bills and pays hundreds of millions of dollars in interest on those bills. The fiscal health of schools across the state was a central topic of the forum.
Greg Aguilar from the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce says that change has to start from the individual level.
"And we have to demand that the state works for their local communities. But when we have low voter turnout, and when we have nobody showing up to a school board meeting, where a lot of our budget is spent, which is important because that's where we develop our workforce, but if we're not engaged with the conversations of our own future, we're going to allow others to create the rheotric of how we feel and how we think about Illinois. And we really have to step up as individuals."
One study estimates each Illinois taxpayer would have to pay over $50,000 to balance the state's budget. The state's reputation has suffered as a result.
"Every individual person needs to realize their strength, and their power, and their influence over opinions about the state of Illinois, as well as how their opinion matters, especially in Springfield," Aguilar says. "And also us being a bi-state region, how we can leverage four U.S. Senators in Washington. So we have some advantages, but we also need individuals to start really looking at a brighter picture."
Also on the panel for the forum were Moline Alderwoman Sonia Berg, and Michael Glanz from the ARC of the Quad Cities.
WVIK will air the forum Saturday at 1 PM.