Cullerton to City Club today: Failure isn’t an option
Declaring “failure isn’t an option,” Illinois Senate President John Cullerton today will address the City Club of Chicago in an effort to rally public support for a sweeping balanced budget deal designed to end a devastating financial impasse that has dragged on for nearly two years.
“If we can pull this off, we’ll pay businesses on time, fully fund MAP scholarships, ensure state workers get paid and government doesn’t shutdown, assemble a complete budget for the first time in two years and put Illinois on the path to a balanced budget,” Cullerton is expected to say in the speech.
“We’ll also save billions on pension costs, give voters the power to reduce Illinois’ ‘most in the nation’ number of local governments and give schools relief from state mandates.
“It’s an intricate and delicate give-and-take designed to create a plan that can win bipartisan support among lawmakers and hopefully get the governor’s signature.”
The Senate President is scheduled to deliver his remarks at noon today. A video live stream is available at: www.cityclub-chicago.org/live.
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Manar presses for school funding legislation
The governor’s school funding reform commission completed its work last week, but fair and adequate education funding remains out of reach for too many children across Illinois, Senator Andy Manar said.
“If we can get a bill in front of lawmakers this spring, then that will be the true measure of success for the governor’s commission,” said Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat and longtime advocate for school funding reform. “But forgive me if I’m not ready to unfurl the mission accomplished banner just yet.”
During the summer, the governor empaneled a 25-member commission to study Illinois’ worst-in-the-nation school funding formula, which creates winners and losers among students and school districts across Illinois because of its overreliance on local property taxes to fund schools.
The commission's final recommendations include moving Illinois to a new funding formula, a hold-harmless clause to prevent districts from losing state funds, more local control and greater transparency about spending, mandate relief for school districts, additional money for English learners and low-income students and more. The bipartisan commission also recommended an increase of at least $3.5 billion for school funding.
“The commission should be commended for its work the past six months. I am pleased that we have a new level of awareness of the state’s school funding crisis because of this bipartisan, bicameral discussion,” Manar said.
“But in terms of a product, that work yielded another report on Illinois’ already well-documented school funding reform problems. We have a loose framework – a guide – for moving forward. What we do not have today is a piece of legislation to debate in the General Assembly. That has to be the next step.”
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Castro hosts first town hall
The staggering effects of the state budget stalemate and the components of a wide-ranging Senate plan to resolve it were the focus of Senator Cristina Castro’s first town hall meeting with constituents in Elgin last week.
Castro, an Elgin Democrat, was sworn in for her first term as a state senator in January. She co-hosted the town hall meeting with Representative Anna Moeller, also an Elgin Democrat. More than 150 people turned out for the two-hour discussion.
“Local residents are the voices that should be heard first and foremost in Springfield,” Castro said. “Town hall meetings are one of the ways that legislators like Rep. Moeller and I can hear what our constituents’ concerns are so we can work together toward improving our state.”
Constituents shared their frustrations about the budget impasse and expressed concern about possible cuts to social services. One woman expressed concern about autism funding for services for her child, while another asked questions about public employee pensions.
Many constituents called for an end to the two-year stalemate and applauded the Senate’s attempt to reach a bipartisan compromise to end it.
“This town hall couldn’t have come at a better time,” Castro said. “I look forward to taking the views of my district with me as I begin my first legislative session in Springfield, and I look forward to focusing on what the people of this state truly need.”
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