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The Majority Report 02/16/18 - Senate Democrats: Rauner budget lacks depth, compassion


Senate Democrats: Rauner budget lacks depth, compassion

Budget address

Senate Democrats expressed concern about the effects Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed budget woud have on education, human services and benefits for retired teachers and other public employees, while noting it’s technically not balanced and relies on shaky math.

Majority Caucus Whip Iris Y. Martinez of Chicago said low-income, minority and immigrant communities would disproportionately feel the effects of deep cuts to such programs as child care assistance, addiction prevention and treatment services, and welcoming centers.

“With these communities already under attack from the federal government, I would hope that our governor would stand up for the most vulnerable among us. I am once again disappointed he did not,” she said.

The governor’s plan hits the already struggling working class where it hurts – in the wallet – according to Senator James F. Clayborne Jr., a Belleville Democrat.

“It saddles local schools with the choice of raising property taxes or firing teachers due to a lack of resources. This coupled with the governor’s aim for a property tax freeze will suffocate local schools and could force drastic cuts,” he said.

Senator Napoleon Harris III (D-Harvey) said he has serious concerns about the proposal.

“I agree with the governor that we need to prioritize our spending in areas like education, social services and infrastructure. What I don’t agree with is saying we want to invest more in these areas while cutting essential services,” he said. “My concern is that the governor’s plan will lead to property tax increases and will do nothing to better serve our children.”

For Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), Rauner's plan to rapidly shift responsibility for pension costs from state to local governments is a nonstarter.

“Forcing another government to pay your bills does not cut government spending or reduce the burden on taxpayers. It just shifts the blame to somebody else. Avoiding blame seems to be the governor’s specialty,” he said.

Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago), chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations I Committee, said she appreciated the governor’s attempt to offer something resembling a real, balanced budget for the first time in four years.

“That said, I have some serious concerns about his cuts to human services, Medicaid and retired pensioners to whom we have a contractual obligation. I look forward to working across the aisle to tackle Illinois’ fiscal challenges,” she said.

Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) was less optimistic: “Gov. Bruce Rauner wants to raise property taxes. His budget gives our schools no other choice.”

Read more: Reaction from Illinois Senate Democrats


Concerns grow about Rauner's turnaround on school funding

Sen. President John J. CullertonThe governor’s budget speech seemed “intentionally deceptive,” while the actual budget proposal undermines the governor’s own accomplishments, Senate President John Cullerton said.

“He said he wants to roll back taxes and put more money in education. Here’s the problem: his budget does the opposite. He spends the entire tax increase. And he cuts money for education,” Cullerton said. “It’s almost like he doesn’t know what his budget does. I can’t explain the disconnect. It seems intentionally deceptive and it’s troubling.”

The Rauner proposal calls for increasing public school funding by $350 million, the amount required by the new formula the governor considers his top accomplishment. But the proposal then wipes out the increase by dumping nearly $500 million in state retirement costs onto local schools. Public education ends up losing under the Rauner plan.

Senator Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat and sponsor of the school funding overhaul Rauner signed during the summer, noted that schools still have not received a penny under the new formula, yet the governor already is trying to change it.

“The governor relies heavily on shifting costs from the state to local government to make his math appear to add up. When you look at the combined effect of his proposals, it would result in a net decrease in state support for Illinois public schools – to the tune of nearly $1 billion less,” Manar said. “For a man who seized upon school funding reform as his greatest accomplishment as governor, he certainly does not seem inclined to make sure the new formula is given a chance to work.”

Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Shorewood), chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, panned the governor’s proposal.

“His budget is going to force schools to raise property taxes despite the historic reforms we passed last year,” she said.

Read more: Reaction from Illinois Senate Democrats
In the news: Illinois schools say pension shift would undo funding revamp


Black Caucus: The Rauner Experiment is a failure

Sen. Elgie SimsMembers of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus derided the governor’s budget proposal, with cuts to public education and human services, as harmful to the black community.

Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood), who chairs the joint Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, called the speech disingenuous.

“His pension cost shift offsets the investment in education he says he’s making, which would put districts that cannot afford the cost shift further away from adequate funding. That does not increase the quality of education for our children,” she said.

Senator Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago) questioned proposed cuts to human services and the potential effect on poor and disadvantaged Illinoisans.

“Gov. Rauner introduced a plan to devastate Illinois’ most vulnerable residents by slashing programs that are necessary to end the cycle of poverty and help low-income families succeed,” she said. “His cuts to After School Matters and Teen Reach would be dangerous for young people who might otherwise be on the streets.”

Senator Elgie R. Sims Jr. (D-Chicago) noted the lack of investment in job creation.

“One of my biggest frustrations is that the governor walked away from that speech without having a plan to address unemployment across the African-American community,” he said. “The people of this state cannot get their governor to lay out a realistic blueprint for a budget.”

'Unbelievable': Watch members of the Black Caucus react to the budget address


Senate honors fallen Chicago police commander

Sen. Tony MunozAssistant Majority Leader Tony Munoz (D-Chicago) presented a resolution honoring Commander Paul Bauer, a 31-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, who was shot and killed Tuesday when he ran after a man whom officers tried to stop near the Thompson Center.

Bauer, 53, was off duty at the time of the midday shooting. He is the highest-ranking Chicago police officer to be killed in the line of duty in decades.

Bauer was married with a 13-year-old daughter. He is remembered as a caring, dedicated officer; a loving husband and father; and someone who cared deeply for the communities he served.

Munoz is a former Chicago police officer. His Senate Resolution 1410 honors Bauer.

Audio: Listen to Munoz’s remarks
Stevens column: 'I knew Paul Bauer, and he was as wonderful as people are saying'


In case you missed it


Senator Scott Bennett, Champaign: VA to honor vets with special event | Danville Commercial News

Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, Shorewood: Local state senators react to Rauner’s budget address | Joliet Herald-News

Senator Cristina Castro, Elgin: Illinois idling on spending plan for Volkswagen settlement money | WTTW-TV, Chicago

Senator Tom Cullerton, Villa Park: 2016 report put Quincy veterans home plumbing fix at $8M | The Associated Press

Senator Bill Cunningham, Chicago: Focusing on gun felons in the name of Commander Bauer | Chicago Tribune editorial

Senator Napoleon Harris III, Harvey: Proposed legislation targets water rates, crumbling infrastructure | Chicago Tribune

Senator Michael Hastings, Tinley Park: Tax seminar for veterans set for Feb. 22 | Homewood-Flossmoor Chronicle

Senator Linda Holmes, Aurora: Aurora officials have concerns about governor’s pension proposal | The Beacon-News, Aurora

Senator Toi Hutchinson, Chicago Heights: Lawmakers declare domestic violence a public health priority | Chicago Tribune

Senator Dave Koehler, Peoria: Local schools, pols worry about Rauner’s pension cost shift | Peoria Journal Star

Senator Andy Manar, Bunker Hill: Decatur-area schools: Proposed pension shift adds burden, uncertainty | Decatur Herald & Review

Senator Julie Morrison, Deerfield: High school students work behind scenes on bill to increase smoking age | Chicago Tribune


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