Union members chanted, mayors complained and nursing home workers delivered petitions Wednesday in hopes of getting Illinois officials to reverse course on proposed budget cuts.
All those groups and more roamed the state Capitol to argue that the money they get from state government is vital and must not be reduced.
"It's a very simple equation. Less money equals less safety," Sean Smoot, director of the Police Benevolent and Protective Association, said at a news conference.
"Don't cut home care! Don't cut pensions!" chanted hundreds of members of the Service Employees International Union.
While interest groups were quick to speak out against cuts, they often fell silent when asked for alternatives.
Cut waste, some said. Others said that's not their problem — it's the job of state officials.
"It's their budget. They need to balance that budget," said Mayor Gerald Bennett of Palos Hills, who was opposing any reduction in the amount of income tax money that goes to local government.
Some groups, however, did offer ideas to reduce the budget cuts that state officials are considering.
The Responsible Budget Coalition pointed to a practice of automatically sending money to certain special funds without any review. They said some of those funds support programs, such as tourism promotion and horse-breeding, that are "clearly of lower priority" than human services.
The coalition also calls for Illinois to change its tax laws so the state doesn't lose money because of a new federal tax break for businesses. The group says that would save $600 million.
Illinois income taxes are based on federal law. When federal government grants a tax break — in this case, letting businesses claim years of equipment depreciation all at once — it automatically reduces Illinois revenues.
"These steps ... could be used to protect funding for human services and other vital programs that are again subject to proposals for devastating cuts," the coalition says.
Three different budget proposals are on the table in Springfield, where officials face a deficit that could top $9 billion in the coming years. All include cuts to some programs, but Gov. Pat Quinn's proposal would produce the least pain — for instance, by "decoupling" from the federal tax change to save Illinois $600 million.
The version backed by Senate Democrats would cut about $1 billion more than Quinn's, while a House plan backed by both Democrats and Republicans would cut $2 billion beyond Quinn's.
Both the House and Senate have set the level of spending they're willing to include in next year's budget. Reversing some of the proposed cuts would mean cutting other services more deeply or persuading lawmakers to backtrack and approve more money.
Some groups insisted none of the proposals are acceptable.
"A budget proposal that cuts a nickel out of (developmental disability) services is bad," said Charlotte Cronin, executive director of the Family Support Network. "We were in bad shape three years ago, before the economy imploded."
Others protested cuts that haven't even been proposed.
Mayors from around Illinois denounced the idea of ending state revenue-sharing with local governments. They warned that losing the money would mean harsh cuts to police and fire services and would permanently damage relations between state and local officials.
But Kelly Kraft, spokeswoman for Quinn's budget office, said the governor hasn't proposed taking away that local money. He has only raised the possibility of delaying some of the money. And neither the House nor the Senate budget plan would touch the local money at all.
"We hear from people every day: 'Don't cut us. Cut here, cut there'," Kraft said. "We have a fiscal crisis in our state. We need to make reductions."