Senator Steans

February 19, 2015

Dear Friends,

 

The governor's stated priority is balancing the state budget and getting our finances back in order, but yesterday, he presented a plan that relies on false savings.

 

Most notably, crediting $2.2 billion in pension savings to Illinois' account this year is dishonest, with a lawsuit that challenges the 2013 law still unresolved. Pension reform is a complex, long-term process, not a quick fix.

 

Meanwhile, the governor's extreme spending cuts don't eliminate needs; they simply shift costs elsewhere. For example, cutting one-third of the higher education budget will put pressure on colleges and universities to hike tuition and fees that are already difficult for most middle-class families to afford.

 

Slashing funding for local governments in half will result in higher property taxes and rent payments.

 

Gov. Rauner's plan for a slight increase to education funding is positive, but elsewhere in the draft budget, he recommends shifting the cost of health insurance for retired teachers to local school districts, offsetting the benefits of increased General State Aid.

 

And as we know from experience, Medicaid cuts don't keep people from getting sick; they force them to put off seeking care until their health is in jeopardy and they require much more expensive emergency room or inpatient treatments. Gov. Rauner's proposed reductions to the medical assistance budget total $1.5 billion and include slashing Illinois' provider reimbursement rates (already almost the lowest in the nation) and limiting low-income women's access to treatment for breast and cervical cancer. He also intends to once again eliminate optional services, such as routine dental care, that we tried cutting from Medicaid in 2012 but restored last year because the savings we saw weren't worth the additional costs of emergency care and the impact on the health of low-income and medically vulnerable individuals. It is disappointing and frustrating to see this administration starting back down the same failed path.

 

Please click here to read more about the governor's proposed Fiscal Year 2016 budget, which also includes reductions to funding for mass transit, developmental disabilities, mental health, HIV/AIDS, care for wards of the state and more.

 

In hearings starting next month, my colleagues and I will thoroughly discuss each agency's needs and where savings can be achieved. But the numbers in this proposal simply don't add up. I look forward to working with the governor's office on a balanced budget that is realistic and fulfills our responsibilities to our most vulnerable residents.

 

Sincerely,
Heather Steans
Senator Heather Steans
7th District – Illinois

 

 

District Office

5533 N. Broadway • Chicago, IL 60640

773-769-1717 (Phone) • 773-769-6901 (Fax)

 

Springfield Office

122 Capitol Building • Springfield, IL 62706

217-782-8492 (Phone)

 

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CTBA news conference Feb 2015 webOn Tuesday, the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability released a report showing that ending the temporary income tax increase in January of this year has actually widened the gap between rich and poor in Illinois and is unlikely to lead to economic growth. According to the study, the wealthiest 11 percent of taxpayers enjoy more than half of the total value of this tax relief. A milionaire can expect to pay almost $37,000 less in taxes this year, while a person making minimum wage might pocket $100 more. Because low-income families spend a much higher percentage of their earnings than the rich, who tend to put additional income into savings, and because most economic growth is related to consumer spending, it's unlikely this tax break will stimulate the economy enough to pay for itself. Meanwhile, the working poor suffer when state services designed to give them a hand up and out of poverty are underfunded because of insufficient revenues.

These are the facts we need to face when discussing the impact of our tax policy on the people of Illinois.

I also spoke to WBEZ's Afternoon Shift about the report, our unfair tax structure and the Rauner budget:

 

SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago 7th) issued the following statement after chairing a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing this morning on the urgent need to resolve a nearly $300 million funding shortfall in the Child Care Assistance Program:

Losing access to child care is not just a budget crisis; it's an urgent human and economic crisis. Failure to fill the funding gap will force many parents to quit their jobs or put their education on hold, increase reliance on other forms of government assistance and keep at-risk children out of high-quality early learning programs.

There are funds we can move to the Child Care Assistance Program immediately so providers that serve mostly low-income families won't be forced to close their doors due to delayed state payments. I was disappointed that today, top Rauner budget advisers testified they want the General Assembly to give the administration unprecedented emergency budgetary authority before they take action on child care assistance.

I'm participating in the ongoing negotiations in good faith, but I also think the Rauner administration owes the public an explanation of how it intends to keep low-income parents on the job. The possibility of passing narrowly tailored legislation to save CCAP while we have the broader budget conversation is not off the table, and it's one I'll continue to pursue. I certainly hope the Rauner administration does not intend to hold child care assistance hostage in the service of its overall agenda.

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Dear neighbors,


The $300 million shortfall in the state's Child Care Assistance Program represents not just a budget crisis, but an immediate human crisis.


This morning, I chaired an appropriations committee hearing where we heard testimony from Jennifer Addington, a mother who was able to earn an associate's degree while her son attended a high-quality preschool because of CCAP and from Chandra Ankoor, a single mom of three who works four jobs to make ends meet and fears unemployment and homelessness if she loses her child care subsidy. We also heard that many child care centers and in-home providers will be forced to close their doors or drastically reduce services in a matter of months or even weeks with continued delays in state funding.


CCAP eligibility is limited to low-income parents who work or are enrolled in school. Failure to fill the funding gap will force many parents to quit their jobs or put their education on hold. It will increase reliance on other forms of government assistance for families no longer bringing in an income. It will also cause many children to lose access to high-quality early learning programs proven to get kids ready to learn by the time they start kindergarten.


I understand the human and economic consequences of losing access to child care, and I'm continuing to work to resolve this crisis as quickly as possible. There are funds we can move to the CCAP immediately, without borrowing or generating new revenue. I was disappointed that today, top Rauner budget advisers testified that they want the General Assembly to give the administration unprecedented emergency budgetary authority – the power to move money around in ways that could seriously undermine the legislature's role in the process and upset state government's balance of power – before they take action on child care assistance.


I'm participating in the ongoing negotiations in good faith, but I also think the Rauner administration owes the public an explanation of how it intends to keep low-income workers with children on the job. The possibility of passing narrowly tailored legislation to save CCAP while we have the broader budget conversation is not off the table, and it's one I'll continue to pursue. I certainly hope the Rauner administration does not intend to hold child care assistance hostage in the service of its overall agenda.


Please feel free to contact me through my website or at 773-769-1717 about this or any other legislative matter, and I also urge you to call the governor's office to voice your concerns.


Sincerely,

SteansSig

Heather A. Steans
State Senator, 7th Legislative District

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Contact Us

District Office
5533 N. Broadway
Chicago, IL 60640
Office: 773-769-1717
Fax: 773-769-6901

Springfield Office
623 Capitol Building
301 S. Second St.
Springfield, IL 62706
Office: 217-782-8492