Senator Steans

6/3/14

Dear Friends,

 

Last night on Chicago Tonight Carol Marin hosted me and 3 colleagues in a discussion on the legislative session that ended last week. You can watch the piece here. While many items were left undone during session, the most significant issue addressed was the budget. The General Assembly passed a budget that is based on income tax rates rolling back on January 1, 2015. While the budget does not make drastic cuts to education, health care or human services, it makes it more difficult for children, seniors and those with developmental disabilities to receive services, relies on borrowing from non-general revenue state funds, requires significant reductions within state agencies, lengthens payment cycles for state vendors, and adds to the state’s unpaid bills.

 

I believe this budget reverses the progress we have made to restore fiscal responsibility in the state while caring for our most vulnerable residents. Further, it simply delays our need to address the state’s revenue structure. Here is a comparison of the current FY14 budget with the FY15 budget we passed.

 

Budget Chart

I suspect that before we address the FY16 budget the General Assembly will revisit revenue. All options should be on the table, like broadening the personal and/or corporate income tax base and getting rid of loopholes, extending current income tax rates, and/or broadening the sales tax base to include services as many neighboring states do.

 

In several days I will send another session wrap-up on some of the policy issues that came before the General Assembly this spring.

 

Upcoming Events

 

There are several exciting events coming up locally. Please click here for June events in our community.

 

Thanks, and please call or email me with your questions, concerns, or comments.

 

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

M120 Capitol Building • Springfield, IL 62706

217-782-8492 (Phone)

 

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equalityWhile more than 15 Illinois counties have issued marriage certificates to same-sex couples since a federal judge ruled they could in February, all of Illinois’ 102 counties will officially begin issuing licenses on Sunday (courthouses closed on Sunday for the weekend will begin issuing licenses on Monday).

“This is a day to celebrate the hard work of so many Illinois families whose commitment to human rights and basic fairness made this moment possible,” said Senator Heather Steans (D – Chicago).

The Senate took the historic first step toward same-sex marriage last February by passing Marriage Equality legislation on Valentine’s Day. The measure was held in the House until November, when it passed and was sent back to the Senate for a second reaffirming vote.

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Senator Steans

5/23/14

Dear Neighbor,

 

With the end of May and the legislative session nearing, I want to update you on where the development of a budget for the next fiscal year stands and the Equal Rights Amendment I passed out of the Senate yesterday.

 

Budget

 

Illinois’ current income tax rates are scheduled to expire on January 1, 2015. Lowering the individual rate from 5% to 3.75% and the corporate rate from 7% to 5.25% would result in a revenue reduction of $1.6 billion. The General Assembly is debating whether to keep the current rates in place or make significant cuts to core services in order to balance the budget.

The Senate appropriations committees, one of which I chair, have been listening all spring to the testimony of state agencies. They’ve been telling us about the likely effects of a budget cut of this magnitude – outcomes such as eliminating child care subsidies for 23,000 children, mental health services for 40,000 patients, assistance for 11,000 domestic abuse victims and an estimated 13,000 public school teaching positions. Many of my colleagues and I have warned consistently against the devastating impact these reductions would have on real lives, particularly given the significant cuts to state budget already made over the last 5 years (Medicaid cuts of $1.6 billion; closing four prisons, two state psychiatric hospitals and two state centers for people with developmental disabilities; reducing school aid to 89% of per-pupil funding and reducing the number of state employees by 4,000, to name just a few).

Last week, House members voted for a budget, based on maintaining current revenue, that would allow the state to sustain essential services. The House did not pass legislation to keep the revenue in place, however. The Senate determined it was not interested in passing a budget without needed revenues to support it.

This week the Speaker of the House announced that only 34 House Democrats are willing to vote to maintain current tax rates. The House will now vote on a budget based on letting the tax rates expire. It is my hope that my fellow legislators in the House will recognize the short-term and long-term harm these deep cuts to education, human services and public safety are likely to cause, in addition to the harm this will cause to fiscal stability and the State’s bond ratings.

I will continue to lead the charge in the Senate for a responsible budget that brings certainty and fiscal stability to the state and maintains core services.

 

Equal Rights Amendment

 

Yesterday, the Illinois Senate voted to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment – 42 years after Congress first sent the ERA to the states. It’s hard to believe that in 2014, we still have to debate the appropriateness of declaring the legal equality of men and women, but I told my colleagues, some of whom questioned why we are doing this now, that there’s no time like the present to make history and right this wrong.

The Equal Rights Amendment reads, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” Equal rights for women are such a part of our national fabric that in a 2012 survey, 91 percent said they thought the U.S. Constitution already protected against gender-based discrimination. Yet Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has stated that he does not believe the Constitution guarantees women’s equality under the law, and policies that discriminate on the basis of sex are subject to a standard of review that is less strict than the court’s approach to racial discrimination. When women challenge unequal hiring, promotion or wages, they often face uphill court battles.

Illinois’ state constitution already establishes the equality of men and women. It is fitting – and past time – for Illinois to become the 36th state to ratify the ERA. This can happen if three-fifths of House members approve the ratification resolution.

Generations of women have struggled simply to establish as one of our nation’s core values that discrimination based on gender is wrong, yet this issue is as timely and urgent as ever. From equal pay to reproductive rights to fair treatment on college campuses, women’s rights are at risk as long as they are not protected in the Constitution. It has been an honor to lead the ratification effort in the Senate, and I am deeply conscious of all the trailblazing women who have come before me, shaping Illinois’ society and politics and making possible this long overdue and still crucial step toward full equality.

 

I sincerely welcome your input on the budget or any other legislative matter. Please contact my office (773-769-1717) with your concerns, ideas and questions.

 

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

M120 Capitol Building • Springfield, IL 62706

217-782-8492 (Phone)

 

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www.SenatorSteans.com

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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