Crowd gathers for massive Statehouse rally

State Capitol Bureau

It's almost rally time in downtown Springfield.

Thousands are converging on the Capitol today representing state worker and teacher unions along with social service providers. They want lawmakers not to punt again on budget problems but to approve a tax increase to spare deep cuts.

Hoardes of ralliers are lining up on Second Street south of the Capitol complex about a half-hour ahead of the start of the major rally. They'll march toward the east side of the Capitol and listen to a few speakers before marching around the building and then going inside to meet with lawmakers.

Already, some are inside carrying signs reading "Save Our Schools" and "Save Our Seniors," and the line is out the door for others to get in. Buses are unloading out front of the Capitol.

Ken Swanson, president of the Illinois Education Association, expects his union to bring as many as 5,000 members to the rally. He said the idea is to build grassroots support for House Bill 174 and increase pressure on lawmakers here and back home in their districts for what they view as the "best comprehensive solution."