The Majority Report 06/01/14 - Better Schools, Better Wages



Senate passes Manar's education funding reform

Senator Andy ManarProving their commitment to progressive policies, Illinois Senate Democrats approved a sweeping overhaul of the state's public school funding system in an effort to address student needs and correct decades-long disparities.

State Senator Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat, guided Senate passage of SB 16, which would collapse the current system and replace it with one that would send 92 percent of school funding to districts based on the financial needs of those districts. Currently, only 44 cents of every state education dollar is distributed based on actual need.

"The Senate took an important step in the process of fundamentally changing how the state funds school districts to achieve greater equity," Manar said. "There was a strong coalition of support from lawmakers in Chicago, the suburbs and downstate Democrats, but there is still more work to be done, and I expect more changes to be made to the proposal as it progresses. But I can't stress enough how important it was to clear this first hurdle."

Over the past year, Manar has been developing a new school funding formula that will change the way the state distributes $6.7 billion in aid to education. The current system is unchanged since 1997.

"I applaud Senator Andy Manar for effectively advancing the fundamental issue of equity for our schools," President John J. Cullerton said. "While there have been many hurdles along the way, those challenges have not stopped his effort to find a more fair approach."

Read more about education funding reform...



Public to consider minimum wage increase

Senator Kimberly A. LightfordThanks to Illinois Senate Democrats, the public will get to weigh in on whether the minimum wage should be increased.

"Giving the people an opportunity to voice their opinions should help inform our debate at the State Capitol," said State Senator Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood), the sponsor of the legislation and a strong supporter of raising the minimum wage.

Lightford's proposal puts the following question on the ballot for the November 4, 2014 general election: "Shall the minimum wage in Illinois for adults over the age of 18 be raised to $10 per hour by January 1, 2015?"

The referendum would be purely advisory and have no legal consequences. For Lightford, it's part of her ongoing work to make the minimum wage - currently at $8.25 an hour -- a living wage. "If you work full-time, you shouldn't have to rely on government support to put food on your family's table or a roof over your head," she said.

Read more about the miminum wage increase...



Senate President on FY15 state budget
Senator John J. CullertonOn May 30, the Illinois Senate Democrats approved a state budget that does not rely on extending current tax rates and averts doomsday budget cuts. However, it leaves many financial issues for the future unresolved.

Illinois Senate President John J. Cullerton issued the following statement after the Senate voted.

"This maintenance budget allows us to provide level funding for key priorities and services. The effect of the budget is to avert doomsday cuts by deferrals, borrowing and increasing our backlog of bills.

Admittedly, this budget reverses some of the progress that we have made in recent years.  Since we passed the income tax increase in 2011, we have paid down $3.6 billion in old bills and fully funded our ballooning pension payments.

We have paid off $8 billion in pension debt. We have saved billions with responsible budget cuts and that demonstrated that we can be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.

In order to return to this path of fiscal progress, we will have to bring revenues in line with our growing liabilities. While a vote on our tax rates has been deferred, rising costs and pressures will force the issue at a later date."


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