Dear Mr. Webb:
The blind vendors of Illinois are devastated by Governor Blagojevich’s action to place corporate interests ahead of the livelihood of blind people. The governor is, in effect, imposing a special tax on a group of people who can least afford to pay it. He is serving as a reverse Robin Hood, stealing from the blind to benefit the rich.
These are strong words, but they are well deserved. For the past two years I and others have beseeched the governor to cancel or modify his plan for corporate sponsorship. We have informed him and his staff that the plan would require blind vendors to pay a huge per case premium on the purchase of sodas in the State. Many blind vendors depend on the sale of sodas to make a decent living. We have also advised the governor that his plan would violate Illinois law and Federal law by limiting the placement and operation of blind vending facilities. Every effort we have made to demonstrate the impact the plan would have, and he has not answered any of our letters pointing out the difficulties the plan would impose on blind citizens.
Sadly, the governor and his staff have done everything possible to limit opportunities for blind Illinoisans. By enabling bottlers and distributors to pay a surcharge to the State and pass that on to their customers, the State is denying access to the blind in establishing new vending facilities. The blind vending facility program is entitled by law to income from vending machines on State property, which income is used to purchase equipment, repair blind vendors’ equipment, and for other worthwhile purposes. The governor’s plan will remove that income. The federal agency in charge of the blind vending facility program nationally has unequivocally asserted that the blind vendor program has authority to establish facilities at Illinois rest areas. A surcharge on sodas, which comprises the bulk of rest area facility operations, could make such rest areas uneconomic for blind vendor employment.
We have sought compromise with the governor’s office on this matter, to no avail. No guarantees on pricing have been made, and while funds are to be raised for State government, there is no profit sharing contemplated to benefit the blind vendor program. The governor has even reneged on an Administrative Order protecting the blind vending program’s income from vending machines on State property. Accordingly, on behalf of the Illinois Committee on Blind Vendors and the blind vendors of this State, I am notifying you that we will have nothing to do with the corporate sponsorship program, and will do everything we can to preserve the livelihoods of blind vendors and their families. Moreover, we will not comply in any way with any contract developed under the governor’s plan.
Very truly yours,
John Gordon, Chairman Illinois Committee of Blind Vendors
cc: Ms. Carol Adams Secretary, Department of Human Services
Mr. Paul Drake Administrator, Business Enterprise Program for the Blind
Illinois Committee of Blind Vendors