Lives at Stake, say Illinoisans with Disabilities
On Tuesday, December 12, disability organizations, disability advocates, State Senator Daniel Biss and State Representative Greg Harris called on Governor Rauner and Illinois members of Congress on the tax bill conference committee to eliminate components that would damage the lives of millions of disabled people. The U.S. House and the U.S. Senate have passed different versions of a Federal Tax Bill, known as the Tax Cut and Jobs Act. A bipartisan conference committee has been set in order to reconcile the two versions and develop a final bill. Notably, the Governor of Illinois has yet to address the concerns of constituents with disabilities.
“Both the House version and the Senate version of the tax bill spell disaster for people with disabilities,” said Meg Cooch, the Executive Director of the Arc of Illinois. “The legislation will eliminate disability incentives, it will raise medical costs, and in some cases it will eliminate coverage for people with disabilities.” The tax bill is expected to raise the federal deficit by $1.5 trillion. Certain provisions will be eliminated in order to pay for the cuts. These provisions include the elimination of the medical expense deduction and the elimination of tax credits for employers who hire people with disabilities. Of particular concern are Senate PAYGO rules that require that, in order to address the growing deficit, programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid be cut. In the first year alone, the Senate version of the tax bill would force $25 billion in cuts to Medicare.
The legislation in the House and Senate has been framed as a bill that will brief tax relief and will stimulate growth. That message doesn’t translate for the disability community. The Senate version of the tax bill includes a provision to repeal the healthcare mandate in the Affordable Care Act. “For millions of people with disabilities, the reality is that eliminating the individual mandate will force disabled people to shoulder higher premiums,” said Amber Smock, the Director of Advocacy for Access Living. “Around 13 million people would lose insurance; it would also force a boom in ER visits, which have been shown to cost more.”
The conference committee includes two House members from Illinois, US Representative Peter Roskam and US Representative John Shimkus. “We call on the Illinois Congressmen on the conference committee to reject both versions of the bill, to listen to the disability community, and to listen the millions of disabled and non-disabled people in Illinois and around the country,” said Gary Arnold, Program Director for Progress Center Independent Living. “We call on Illinois leaders to fight for a bill that does not take away healthcare, independence and opportunity for people with disabilities.”
With potential snowballing cuts to Medicaid, the State of Illinois would be forced to cut services, and would lose out on Federal matching funds to programs that support people with disabilities in their own homes instead of institutions. "The GOP tax bill will have a devastating effect on residents of Illinois with disabilities,” said Ryan McGraw, Co-Chair of Chicago ADAPT. “We need Governor Rauner to fight for Illinoisans and use his political power to urge Congressional members from Illinois to vote against the tax bill.”
The news conference on December 12 is part of a week-long series of events against the Federal Tax Bill. Monday, December 11 was a Nationwide Day of Action. Later this week, advocates in Washington, DC will participate in direct action protests against the tax bills.
Contact: Amber Smock
Title: Director of Advocacy