Political fight hits hard in Illinois’ poorest corner

SARA BURNETT, Associated Press

CAIRO, Ill. (AP) — For many people in Illinois, the five-month disagreement over a state budget has been barely a blip on the radar, a sideshow of political wills between a new Republican governor and a heavily Democratic legislature.

But for residents in the low-income counties in far southern Illinois it’s a far different story.

In the area tucked between the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, private industry is scarce. Residents rely on government for everything from health care to jobs and feel the impact severely when the public sector falters.

In the state’s poorest county, the only public health clinic is only open one day a week. Half the sheriff’s department has been laid off, and the head of the highway department can’t afford to buy road salt to keep roads clear this winter.