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  • Senate President: We gave governor everything he asked for

    Senate President John J. Cullerton

    Responding to questions from WBEZ’s Tony Sarabia this morning, President John J. Cullerton expressed his frustration with Gov. Bruce Rauner’s pledges to veto the balanced budget and reforms the Illinois Senate passed this week. Based on the governor’s proposed spending limits, revenue increases and reform guidelines, the budget Senate Democrats sent to the Illinois House also included $3 billion in cuts.

    “He gave us the budget on Feb. 15 with spending levels and a tax increase request,” Cullerton said. “We gave him exactly what he asked for. We sat down with Republicans and cut $3 billion out of the budget in order to make those two things work and then he told them to vote No.”

    Hear the full interview at WBEZ Radio.

  • Harmon: The most meaningful reform is a balanced budget (AUDIO)

    harmon 031517SPRINGFIELD – The most meaningful reform Gov. Bruce Rauner can sign into law after two years of gridlock in Springfield is a balanced budget, Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) said.

    “Citizens and businesses in Illinois need predictability, stability and certainty, and Senate Democrats are offering that with a balanced budget,” Harmon said. “They’ll know what they are in for, they’ll know the state will pay its bills, and they’ll know that the state will be here to provide the services that everyone relies upon us to provide.”

    Harmon elaborated on a series of reforms the Senate passed last week in conjunction with a balanced budget at the behest of Gov. Rauner and others to make the state more business friendly. The reforms include workers’ compensation reform, procurement reform, local government consolidation reform and school funding reform. Senate Democrats also have indicated a willingness to enact a two-year property tax freeze.

    “Nobody likes property taxes. We’re proposing a freeze in property taxes. We’d like to hit the pause button so that we can implement state financial reforms and protect local property taxpayers from increase at the local level,” Harmon said.

    He noted that the Senate most recently enacted major reform of the state’s workers’ compensation system in 2011.

    “Those reforms are paying dividends, but we aren’t seeing those benefits being passed down from the insurance companies to the local businesses that buy their insurance,” he said. “The reforms we’re advancing this session will attempt to deal with that, will attempt to ensure that the premiums, the rates people pay for their workers’ compensation reflect the strides we’ve made in reforming the system.”

    Sen. Harmon talks about the budget:

     

  • Manar: Senate will continue to lead on budget, regardless of what governor chooses to do (AUDIO)

    manar 042617SPRINGFIELD – The Senate’s balanced budget strikes a sensible balance that offers cuts and reforms while prioritizing what the people of Illinois want the state to deliver after two years of gridlock, said Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill).

    “People want us to prioritize funding for education, for health care and for higher education so that we can repair that system. Our budget does all of this under the umbrella of spending limits that the governor put forward,” said Manar, chairman of one of the Senate’s two budget committees.

    “That’s the result of both leadership and frustration on our part, because we continuously put forth issues that Gov. Rauner claims to value – and in some cases demands – but yet we are stuck with no movement from the executive branch.”

    Manar noted that the Senate listened to Gov. Rauner’s demands for government reforms in exchange for signing a budget. The Senate approved term limits on legislative leaders, procurement reform, school funding reform, workers’ compensation reform and local government consolidation reform – all in conjunction with a balanced budget that cuts $3 billion in government spending.

    “So regardless of what Gov. Rauner is going to do, the Senate is going to continue to lead,” Manar said. “That’s why we did the things that we have done this session that ultimately produced a budget that is balanced and sustainable that will help us put this behind us once and for all.”

    Sen. Manar talks about the budget:

  • Clock ticks as Senate Dems try to salvage Illinois economy. Cullerton to Senate: Deal, or no deal? (AUDIO/VIDEO)

    Senate President John J. Cullerton

    SPRINGFIELD — With time running out on lawmakers’ spring session, Illinois Senate President John J. Cullerton attempted to jumpstart bipartisan budget action only to have Governor Rauner and Republicans block progress.

    Cullerton’s efforts come as the General Assembly draws ever closer to a May 31 deadline on a budget and Gov. Bruce Rauner risks entering a third straight budget year with no state budget and a mountain of unpaid bills that recently topped $13 billion.

    Rauner pulled the plug on budget talks last December even as an emergency deal was about to expire. There has been no state spending plan in place since January 1. Senate leaders stepped in to fill the leadership void and began piecing together a sweeping reform and financial plan intended to end the impasse and stabilize the state’s economy.

    Initially, the Senate made great progress.

    Nearly half of the deal — including key provisions for reducing government, opening up economic development opportunities and cutting bureaucratic red tape — won approval at the end of February. But with the rest of the deal positioned for success on March 1, word came down that Rauner was pulling nearly all the Republican support off the plan. Without those votes, the plan, which was put together by Republicans and Democrats, couldn’t advance.

    While there had been numerous meetings and claims of progress over the ensuing months, nothing had been voted on since the end of February. Cullerton decided last week that the Senate had waited long enough and it was time for action.

    “Every day there’s not a budget, the state spends itself another $11 million into debt. March 1 was 71 days ago. It is now May 10. After today, there are 20 days left before our scheduled adjournment on May 31,” the Senate President told the Senate. “I don’t think we can wait any longer. I believe the public’s patience is wearing thin. One way or another, it’s time to vote.”

    The Senate did approve a provision to give local government greater flexibility in borrowing, something that should result in lower interest rates on financing and result in local taxpayer savings.

    But efforts to vote on and advance reforms to the state benefit system for injured workers and a local property tax freeze stalled because Republicans refused to let the Senate vote on the plans. Republican senators said they needed more time to tinker with the provisions before they would consider voting.

    Cullerton said the Senate will keep working and urged lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to realize time is running out, recognize the opportunity for compromise and seize it to help save the state’s economy.

    You can watch the Senate President answer reporters’ questions here:

  • McGuire: Rauner’s silence on higher ed harms neediest students (AUDIO)

    Sen. Pat McGuire

    State universities have made efforts to cut, but warn that the state suffers

    SPRINGFIELD — Speaking after presidents from five state universities testified on how they’re responding to the lack of a state budget and the possibility of more reductions to come, State Sen. Pat McGuire said a generation of students are being harmed by the governor’s lack of a clear plan for higher education in Illinois.

    “We’ve heard of ‘thousands of decisions,’ as Northern Illinois University president Douglas Baker put, to rein in costs and streamline programs,” McGuire said following the hearing, in which presidents explained in detail how they are attempting to triage staff and programs for possible reduction or elimination. “That action at NIU and other state colleges is in sharp contrast to lack of any apparent plan for higher education from the Rauner administration other than to let schools wither.”

    Calling the Illinois House’s recently-passed stopgap measure “unsustainable,” Baker said universities need stability and predictability from state government. Speaking of years of reduced state funding for higher education, Baker said:

    “Unfortunately, these kinds of cuts hit those with the lowest financial ability the most. It hurts the most needy students the worst, but it impacts all of them.”

    “In the absence of any plan from the Rauner administration for how to stabilize and strengthen our state’s higher education system, I fear we’re creating a two-class higher education system in Illinois where those who can afford it will be able to earn college degrees, but those who can’t afford it are out of luck,” McGuire said.

    McGuire, D-Joliet, is chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee.

  • Hunter: It’s time to prioritize social service agencies (AUDIO)

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  • Senate plans votes on budget package in early February (AUDIO)

    jjc 012617Since the first of the year, Senate President John Cullerton and GOP Leader Christine Radogno have been working together to build a legislative package that would end the budget stalement and address a range of policy issues. They have traveled the state speaking to editorial boards of news outlets about the content of the bills, including procurement reform, local government consolidation, pension reform and a property tax freeze.

  • Lawmakers call on governor, AFSCME to continue labor negotiations (VIDEO, AUDIO)

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  • Senate overrides governor's veto of automatic voter registration (VIDEO, AUDIO)

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  • Mulroe, Frerichs urge Rauner to sign unclaimed life insurance benefits (AUDIO)

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  • Lightford: must continue working on education funding reform (AUDIO)

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  • Senate approves stopgap funding for social services (AUDIO)

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  • Manar, downstate senators demand reform for K-12 funding (AUDIO/VIDEO)

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  • Bertino-Tarrant plan guarantees time off for employees who lose a child (AUDIO)

    jbt041415SPRINGFIELD— A parent whose child has a serious medical condition can receive time off from work under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). However, that same parent would not be allowed under FMLA to take time off for the death of a child.

    In fact, the average bereavement leave for a person who loses a child is three days according to a researcher at Arizona State University.

    Today, State Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Shorewood) passed legislation out of the Illinois Senate guaranteeing parents who lose a child time off work to grieve.

  • Senate votes to repeal tax on tampons (AUDIO)

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  • Spending authority to end the 2016 budget impasse (AUDIO)

    trotter sb2046Today, the Illinois Senate passed legislation that could essentially end the 2016 budget year stalemate.

    Some 90 percent of the state spending plan already is in place because of various court orders, leaving just higher education and many social services, which serve thousands of Illinois’ most vulnerable citizens, left unfunded. This afternoon the Senate concurred with the House on Senate Bill 2046 and approved spending authority for the state’s public universities and social services left unfunded during the budget impasse.

  • Secretary of Public Health of Mexico City, Dr. Armando Ahued, addresses Senate (AUDIO)

    The Honorable Secretary of Public Health of Mexico City, Dr. Armando AhuedMembers of the Illinois Senate today welcomed the Honorable Secretary of Public Health of Mexico City, Dr. Armando Ahued, who delivered a speech on behalf of Dr. Miguel Angel Mancera, the mayor of Mexico City. Dr. Mancera was scheduled to speak before the body, but had to stay in Mexico due to a pollution crisis.

    Dr. Ahued is a surgeon who graduated from the Autonomous Metropolitan University in Mexico. He has held the position of Secretary of Public Health since 2006. Dr. Ahued has promoted the well-being of his constituents based on the principles of education and access to preventive care as effective tools to preserve the public’s health. He is the leading force behind the program Doctor In Your Home, which seeks to provide free care to vulnerable people.

  • Senate Democrats bring attention to Pay Equity Day (AUDIO)

    Senate Democrats bring attention to Pay Equity DayFor 20 years, Pay Equity Day has highlighted the disparity in workplace earnings between men and women. The day, held in April, represents the extra days a full-time working woman would have to work just to make the same as a man in the previous year.

    State Senator Toi Hutchinson (D – Chicago Heights) passed a resolution in the Senate today highlighting the issue.

    “If women earned the exact same amount as our male counterparts, we would be able to afford seven additional months of mortgage and utility payments or afford nearly two years’ worth of food in one’s lifetime.”

  • Senate votes to override Rauner veto of MAP, college funding (AUDIO)

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  • Lawmakers personally deliver MAP funding bill to governor's office (AUDIO & VIDEO)

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