Speaker Madigan applauds adoption of bipartisan balanced budget
Legislative report: The Illinois General Assembly approved a bi-partisan budget on Saturday that Speaker Michael J. Madigan predicted will off-set much of the state’s outstanding deficits and shortfalls
“Two years ago at this time, Illinois stood on the edge of a cliff. Billions of dollars in debt had piled up over a 700-day budget crisis. Domestic violence shelters, Meals on Wheels, and lifesaving breast cancer screenings faced severe cuts and those who depend on these essential services faced an uncertain future.
“Today, while Democrats and Republicans have used some additional time to build a stronger compromise, the people of Illinois can see the first signs of a state beginning to move in the right direction.
“We have now passed a bipartisan, balanced budget that invests $375 million more in education, and protects critical services for seniors, women’s health, and families in need. It meets our full pension obligation, and pays down more than $1 billion in old bills.
“Our budget has created a path to fairer taxes for the middle class. Our Fair Tax package will result in tax relief for 97% of Illinois taxpayers, and makes the wealthy pay their fair share so we can continue to hold the line on middle-class taxes, balance budgets, invest in critical services, and take necessary steps toward reducing property taxes.
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“We have taken steps to make our economy stronger: higher wages for working families and equal pay for women; career training to prepare workers for high-wage jobs; and tax credits that invest in businesses that invest in Illinois.
“We have passed reforms that will make health care more affordable and accessible: Protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions; legislation to cap skyrocketing premiums and rein in prescription drug costs; and critical assurances that women’s health will always be a fundamental right.
“While there remains more work to be done to put Illinois fully back on track, in these steps we see what Illinois can be when our leaders stand up for our middle-class families while still seeking common ground; when we use our time to build compromises; when we have a governor who encourages Illinois to think big again; and when we all commit ourselves to working together to build a stronger Illinois.”
Governor J.B. Pritzker also applauded the passage of the bi-partisan budget, saying he will sign the legislation.
“After years of neglecting our state’s roads, bridges, mass transit, and buildings, Illinoisans’ health and safety have been jeopardized, and job creation has been hindered. I’m proud that the state is on the verge of adopting a bipartisan infrastructure plan for the first time in a decade. Our plan to rebuild our roads, bridges and communities will create hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout our state,” Pritzker said.
“The Rebuild Illinois plan will reinvigorate our economy and strengthen our rightful status as the transportation and supply chain hub of the nation. This historic step forward wouldn’t be possible without the leadership of Senators Sandoval, Manar, Hutchinson, DeWitte, Tracy and McConchie, and Representatives Hoffman, Arroyo, Gordon-Booth, Spain, McDermed and Butler, and countless advocates. I look forward to signing Rebuild Illinois into law to create jobs and make it easier to do business across our state.”
Pritzker also commended the legislature for the adoption of other legislation including passage of HB 2719 which expands students’ access to federal aid for post-secondary education.
“Illinois students should be able to afford to pursue a higher education degree, and this legislation will vastly improve our students’ ability to secure federal financial aid to pursue college and vocational training. I applaud the General Assembly for taking action on FAFSA to make that a reality,” Pritzker said.
“I want to thank Senator Manar, Representative Stuart, the State Board of Education and the Student Assistance Commission for their hard work on this. Quality, affordable higher education is critical to the future of this state and all of its communities, and I look forward to signing this legislation.”
State Representative Lisa Hernandez applauded the bi-partisan budget, releasing the following statement:
Hernandez used the spring legislative session to begin building an Illinois that works for everyone by ensuring working families earn a living wage, expanding access to state financial aid for minority and marginalized young people, and supporting the Fair Tax, which provides tax relief to 99.8% of families in her community and requiring the wealthy to pay their fair share.
“It is unacceptable that nearly 80 percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, which is why we took action and provided working families a living wage,” Hernandez said. “This legislation will not only lift millions of families out of poverty but it will also make our state a more appealing place to live and work as the higher wages will create billions of dollars in new economic activity.”
Hernandez championed Senate Bill 1, which increased the minimum wage to a living wage of $15 per hour. According to the Illinois Economic Policy Institute, this plan will generate $19 billion in new economic activity every year, while also lifting hundreds of thousands of families out of poverty and helping parents provide new opportunities for their children. The Hernandez-backed plan also provides small and medium-sized businesses with a tax credit, helping 80 percent of businesses cover a significant amount of these new wages.
Additionally, Hernandez led the charge on the Retention of Illinois Students and Equity (RISE) Act, House Bill 2691, to ensure financial aid equity for minority and marginalized young people. The legislation expands access to state aid by increasing the credit hour limit in place that disproportionately locks out African-American and other people of color from state aid. Hernandez’s RISE Act also allows Illinois students who are not U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents, such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, to receive state financial aid. The measure also ensures transgender students who do not register for required military service are still able to receive financial aid.
“Higher education is key to move up the socioeconomic ladder and it’s unacceptable that our minority and LGBTQ youth are being disproportionately locked out of state financial aid,” Hernandez said. “This legislation is about equity for all students, ensuring that regardless of your race, immigration status or gender identity, you are valued and supported by our state.”
Hernandez also supported the Fair Tax, which requires that the very wealthy pay their share and provide tax relief to 99.8% of families in her community. Illinois’ tax system is among the most unfair in the country and working families bear too much of a burden, which is why Hernandez fought to make the wealthiest pay their fair share so we can build an Illinois that works for everyone.
“For too long, Illinois’ budget crises have created instability and divestment in our communities,” Hernandez said. “By asking the wealthiest to pay their fair share we’ll be able invest in our local public schools, create good paying jobs, and make sure all Illinoisans have access to quality and affordable health care.”
In other matters, Pritzker also said the legalization of sports betting would also strengthen the state’s economy.
“Legalizing sports betting and expanding gaming will create jobs up and down the state, from Rockford to Chicago to Walker’s Bluff, where communities hungry for employment will see 10,000 new jobs. After the Supreme Court legalized sports betting, I promised the people of Illinois that sports wagering would be a key element of my legislative agenda, so that we are competitive with our neighboring states and can create more revenue for communities around Illinois,” Pritzker said.
“Gaming expansions in this state have been attempted and failed for years; this effort succeeded because of talented and dedicated public servants like Leaders Terry Link and Tony Munoz and Representatives Bob Rita and Mike Zalewski. Today is a win for the whole state.”
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Hanania also writes about Middle East issues for the Arab News, and The Arab Daily News criticizing government policies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
A critic of mainstream news media bias, Hanania advocates for peace & justice for Israel & Palestine, & the empowerment of Arabs in America.
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Hanania's columns are archived on his personal website at RayHanania.com. Hanania was named "Best Ethnic American Columnist" by the New America Media in November 2007, and is the 2009 recipient of the SPJ National Sigma Delta Chi Award for column writing.
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