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The Majority Report 12/08/17 - Illinois gives teachers a tax credit, Congress wants to take it away


Congressional GOP tries to undo win for Illinois teachers

Sen. President John J. CullertonA tax policy win for teachers in Illinois is now at risk of being undermined at the national level as Congressional Republicans and President Trump debate wiping out tax relief for teachers who spend their own money on classroom supplies.

The federal debate comes just months after state lawmakers created a new tax credit that recognizes the realities classroom teachers face.

“That’s Washington and the White House going in entirely the wrong direction,” Illinois Senate President John J. Cullerton said. “The reality is that teachers across the city, state and country spend their own money to make sure students have what they need in order to learn. The least we can do is give those teachers some degree of tax relief for those expenses. I can’t believe the Republicans in Washington would try to eliminate it.”

Illinois recently created a $250 tax credit for teachers who use their own money to purchase classroom supplies. In practice, that means teachers who buy $250 worth of classroom materials can now directly reduce their state tax liability by up to $250. Gov. Bruce Rauner rejected the tax credit, but lawmakers overrode his veto.

At the federal level, there’s been a similar, $250 tax deduction for classroom supplies in place since 2002. Now, however, Republicans are threatening to eliminate it. The Republican-backed corporate tax break plan that recently passed the U.S. House zeroed out the tax deduction for teachers. Its future is up in the air as the House, Senate and White House try to strike a final tax policy agreement.

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Cost of managed care program sparks Senate probe

Sen. Dave KoehlerIllinois Senate Democrats questioned the Rauner administration about an unexpected $20 billion spike in a plan to transition Medicaid clients to a managed care program.

A special hearing into the matter Friday in Chicago left some with lingering questions and doubts about the program’s expansion and the purported cost savings that will come with it.

“I still do not believe the administration has clearly answered how taking all 102 counties into managed care will save money and produce positive quality outcomes without jeopardizing the health care of Illinois’ most vulnerable residents,” Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) said.

The price tag for the four-year managed care contract recently jumped from an anticipated $42 billion to an eye-popping $63 billion. The contract was awarded outside of the state procurement code, and specific contracts with the chosen managed care organizations have not been publicly disclosed. And earlier this week, the state’s chief procurement office cancelled a $12.8 million no-bid contract that the Rauner administration awarded to McKinsey & Co. to consult on the process.

Some senators questioned how the administration is sharing important information with local health care providers.

“I talked to people just last week who still can’t get answers from HFS to basic questions about changes that are going to affect thousands of Illinois patients and health care providers,” Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) said.

Senator Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield) expressed concern about the services that children in the care of state child welfare services will receive through the program.

“It is imperative abused or neglected children in DCFS care receive mental and behavioral health services,” she said. “I am concerned that already overworked DCFS case managers will now be expected to monitor the health care needs of vulnerable children.”

In the news: State officer voids $13M no-bid Medicaid consulting contract


Collins outraged about Englewood school closures

Sen. Jacqueline Y. Collins

The planned closure of all four high schools in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood is another example of the city’s disinvestment in public education and opportunities for poor students, Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-Chicago) said last week.

Upon learning that the schools – Hope, Robeson, Harper and Team Englewood – are slated for closure in June, even though a new high school for the students won’t be ready until fall of 2019, Collins said she is outraged.

“The crisis confronting this community and these schools is the result of the decades-long disinvestment in neighborhood schools and the proliferation of charter schools across the South and West Sides of the city,” she said.

“When you systematically and callously undermine the foundation of public education, you close the door of opportunity for many of our most vulnerable and poor students. Now, our children, through no fault of their own, will unfairly face difficulties in safety and transportation that may prove insurmountable.”

Collins was among those who protested the closures Wednesday morning at Chicago Public Schools headquarters.

In the news: Plan to close four CPS schools in Englewood sparks protest
In the news: CPS plan to close four Englewood high schools draws criticism
In the news: Chicago proposes first round of school closings since 2013


In case you missed it


Senate President John Cullerton: Gov. Rauner not in charge? Tell me something I don’t know | The State Journal-Register, Springfield

Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, Shorewood: Bertino-Tarrant fights to protect sensitive voter information | Chicago Tribune

Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins, Chicago: CPS plan to close four Englewood high schools draws criticism | CLTV Chicago

Senator Tom Cullerton, Villa Park: NIU board again approves $600K severance package for ex-president | Northwest Herald

Senator Mike Hastings, Tinley Park: Hastings urges federal leaders to support net neutrality | Joliet Patch

Senator David Koehler, Peoria: One year later, Illinois energy jobs bearing fruit | Peoria Journal Star

Senator Kimberly Lightford, Maywood: Why that new bill requiring cursive in Illinois schools is good news | Chicago Tribune

Senator Andy Manar, Bunker Hill: Manar tours Pana Community Hospital | Shelbyville Daily Union

Senator Julie Morrison, Deerfield: Lawmakers visit ‘hour of code’ at Northbrook | Northbrook Patch

Senator John Mulroe, Chicago: Cancer survivor pushing for state law on dense breast notifications | WTTW-TV, Chicago

Senator Laura Murphy, Des Plaines: Murphy pushing bill to reverse state sales tax processing fee | Journal & Topics Newspaper, Des Plaines

Senator Steve Stadelman, Rockford: IDOT short $300M and what that means for Rockford | WTVO-TV, Rockford


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