Pritzker’s $42 billion budget relies on progressive tax, fails to tackle Illinois’ structural problems
Wirepoints’ analysis finds Pritzker’s 2021 budget unbalanced and lacking the reforms needed to get Illinois back on track.
SPRINGFIELD (2/19/20) – Gov. Pritzker has unveiled his $42 billion state budget for 2021. The budget increases spending by $2 billion, or 4 percent, over 2020 and relies on the passage of a progressive tax amendment to appear balanced. The governor once again rejected any attempt to get retirement debts under control through a pension amendment, insisting instead that a progressive income tax is a panacea to Illinois’ problems.
“This budget doesn’t tackle Illinois’ deep problems. This is not a budget for a state that is just one notch from a junk credit rating. It’s not a budget that deals with the nation’s worst pension crisis, the 2nd-highest property taxes, the 2nd-worst rate of out-migration and falling real home values,” says Ted Dabrowski, President of Wirepoints.
“Giving billions more to a political class that has proven to be the most corrupt in the nation will only invite more abuse.”
Wirepoints’ analysis finds the budget accelerates Illinois’ downward slide by embracing the same policies that have driven Illinoisans out for years, while rejecting the structural reforms Illinois needs. Here are some key facts:
- Pritzker’s 2021 budget is not balanced even if the governor’s $1.4 billion in progressive tax revenues are included. The state’s statutory retirement payments will still be about $4 billion short of what’s actuarially needed for pensions and short another $2-3 billion for retiree health insurance debts. As a result, the state will accrue billions more in debt outside of the budget, just as it has done for years.
- The governor reports $225 million in savings due to “operational efficiencies, possible agency consolidations, and the elimination of excess boards and commissions.” That amount represents less than one percent of the 2021 budget and is dwarfed by the overall $2 billion increase in the budget.
- Pritzker promises to make a near-$500 million “historic investment” in preK-12 education. That increase comes despite the fact that Illinois’ total per-student spending is already the highest in the Midwest. Illinois spends 30 percent more than Wisconsin per student and 50 percent more than Indiana.
- The governor’s attempts to shore up a “rainy day” fund with $100 million falls far short of what Illinois needs. Illinois is grouped with New Jersey as the two least-prepared states in the country for a recession. The amount represents less than 0.25 percent of the budget and is meaningless as long as the state is burdened with billions in unpaid bills.
“Governor Pritzker complains that a constitutional amendment for pensions is a ‘fantasy’ because it would be thrown out under federal law. He’s either dishonest or uninformed, because recent experiences in Rhode Island and Arizona prove otherwise. The real fantasy is expecting Illinois to right its fiscal ship without real pension reform, which requires either a constitutional amendment or bankruptcy,” says Mark Glennon, Executive Editor of Wirepoints.
In his speech, Pritzker also said that if the progressive tax amendment is voted down, state discretionary spending will have to be “inevitably cut” by 15 percent. If he put that question to voters they’d say they want cuts, but not in the areas Pritzker is threatening.
“Pritzker’s talk of cutting state spending is what Illinois actually needs – but the cuts need to come in the right places. Pritzker is wrong to threaten cuts to the core services Illinoisans need. Instead, he should champion structural reforms: the consolidation of local governments, a push for a pension amendment, a drop in labor costs and a significant reduction in mandates on municipalities,” says Dabrowski.
Former McHenry County Board member Donna Kurtz took the podium at Tuesday night’s Board meeting and here is what she said:
Public Comment by Donna Kurtz to the McHenry County Board
Though I have stepped away from public life I still love McHenry County, and I want it to continue to be a great place to live and work, raise a family, and to welcome diversity & inclusion for everyone.
However, it is difficult to have a healthy McHenry County when this County Board allows this Chairman to create an unhealthy environment fueled with threats and vindictiveness.
So, Board Members, why have you allowed the denigration of dedicated public servants such as
- our past Coroner, and
- our current Regional Superintendent of Education, and
- our County Auditor?
The harassment and attempts to humiliate them and undermine their service, by the Chairman, is both
- reprehensible and
from my previous 8 years on the County Board.
The fact that these office holders, who have been bullied and vilified by this Chairman—are all women begs the question—
Could this be a pattern of behavior?
That is something that should send a chill up everyone’s spine.
Martin Luther King said,
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”.
Specifically, it is sad that our women county board members have allowed fellow elected officials to be treated so deplorably.
You must realize your silence was powerfully translated as support for this thuggish behavior.
In a world that has thankfully embraced the ME TOO Movement, it is remarkable that women County Board Members, and our Democratic women in particular, have been so tone deaf on this harassment, and the specter of violence, fear, and anxiety that harassment can create in the
Now, it has become time for this Board to restore mutual respect, decorum, and valuing of diversity by taking back its power and authority from this Chairman.
The Springfield approach—giving a chairman absolute power—leads to a cesspool benefiting only the powerful and the rich, and not the people of our beloved McHenry County.
Board Members, it is not too late to step up your game.
Please undertake these steps without delay:
- Hold a Special Board Meeting.
- Get the Board Rules changed to empower the committees—as done previously.
- Then begin to do the real work of the people—which may include holding this Chairman accountable.
From The Center Square:
Blagojevich returns home from prison, calls Springfield a ‘swamp’
Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a self-proclaimed “Trumpocrat,” was as defiant Wednesday as he was on the day he was sentenced to prison, calling the criminal justice system corrupt and broken.
He also called out Illinois politicians for hiking state taxes in his absence.
Blagojevich spoke to supporters and reporters outside of his home in Chicago, sporting gray hair that he wasn’t allowed to dye in prison and dabbing blood from his chin, the result of what he said was using a proper razor for the first time in more than 7 years.
“We want to extend our profound and everlasting gratitude to President Trump,” he said, between quoting scripture, Martin Luther King Jr., and praising his family. “How do you properly thank someone who has given you back the freedom that was stolen from you? He didn’t have to do this. He’s a Republican president, I was a Democratic governor.”
Blagojevich said Wednesday, as he did during his trial, that he was “persecuted” for what he called routine political practices.
“From beginning to end, this was persecution masquerading as prosecution,” he said.
He also said he was a “political prisoner.”
The former governor also spoke about injustice in the nation’s criminal prosecution system and criticized Illinois politicians for hiking taxes in the years after he was removed from office, convicted and sentenced to prison.
“I wouldn’t allow that swamp in Springfield, and my fellow Democrats, who just wanted to raise taxes on the working people, to raise their taxes,” he said.
Blagojevich didn’t take questions from reporters.
The former Illinois governor was convicted to 14 years in prison after being convicted on multiple corruption charges. He was eight years into his 14-year sentence when Trump commuted it Tuesday.
While he’s free from prison, Trump did not pardon him. That means Blagojevich remains a convicted felon who cannot run for office, own a firearm, or work in a number of professions. His law license remains suspended in Illinois, although he could try to get it reinstated.
Blagojevich, a Chicago Democrat, was sentenced in 2011 to 14 years in prison after he was convicted of corruption tied to his attempt to sell then newly-elected President Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat. He entered prison in March 2012.
In 2018, Illinois’ Republican congressmen wrote a letter to Trump opposing any kind of mercy for Blagojevich.
The letter reminded the president of the evidence against Blagojevich, including his shakedown of Children’s Memorial Hospital for a $50,000 campaign contribution and the delay in signing a new law for the state’s horse tracks until he had secured a $10,000 contribution.
From State Senator Don DeWitte:
DeWitte reacts to Budget Address
Springfield, IL… State Senator Don DeWitte (St. Charles) released the below statement following the Governor’s Budget Address:
“Increasing the budget by $1.6 billion while relying on the Governor getting his massive tax increase is completely irresponsible.
“What’s even more concerning are the threats being made to education, Medicaid, and local governments if he doesn’t get the tax increase he’s been calling for.
“The cycle of spend more, tax more must be over.
“We cannot continue to blame the previous administration for our state’s fiscal calamity, and we certainly cannot continue to ignore the pension albatross that strangles our ability to fund government responsibly.”
Take a deep breath. It’s long.
Building on Steady Progress, Gov. Pritzker Delivers Second Balanced Budget Proposal to Continue to Make Our State Stronger
Springfield, Ill. — Building on the steady progress made since he took office, Governor JB Pritzker proposed his second balanced budget that takes a disciplined approach to managing the state’s limited resources while also making crucial investments that will make our state stronger.
Click here to read the Budget in Brief and the complete FY21 Budget Book.
GOV. PRITZKER’S FY21 BUDGET ADDRESS
Speaker Madigan, President Harmon, Leader Durkin, Leader Brady, Lieutenant Governor Stratton, my fellow Constitutional Officers, Honorable Members of the General Assembly, the incomparable First Lady MK, distinguished guests and people of Illinois —
My friends, not long ago I shared with you news of our state’s progress over the last year and my genuine confidence that our future is bright and that Illinois is growing stronger each day.
I know I have a reputation for being a bit of an irrepressible optimist – something somewhat unusual among those who have held this job recently – but I believe that the cynics had their years in power and that the people of Illinois suffered because of them.
Being a cynic is easy.
Cynicism, after all, demands only that you believe in the worst and do nothing to stop it from happening.
It’s optimism that’s hard. Because optimism demands hope, and patience, and faith…and most importantly, action.
Last year we began turning our ship of state in the right direction.
Today we have the lowest unemployment rate in our history.
We gave pay raises to working people.
And once again we began attracting more students who want to go to college here, because we made college more affordable.
Our resurgence has been fueled by the very source of our historic resilience: the fundamental strength and goodness of our people, who demonstrate time and again that they can overcome any challenge that comes their way.
Never bet against that.
Before I took office, we had two long years without a state budget, longer than any other state in U.S. history. It nearly destroyed the lives of the most vulnerable children and families in Illinois, and it left all of us with billions of dollars in unpaid bills. It forced us to figure out how we would rebuild mental health care and schools and universities and how we would attract job creators and give working families a fighting chance.
And we did start to figure it out.
Last year Republicans and Democrats alike rolled up our sleeves, worked out our differences and produced a bipartisan, balanced budget that has begun to put our state back on a sound fiscal path.
We’ve taken enormous strides forward to undo years of financial mismanagement.
For example, the state entered 2019 with almost $8 billion in unpaid bills.
But a year later, responsible fiscal management has reduced that bill backlog by nearly $1 billion.
Our late payment penalties, which had reached $950 million before I became governor, will fall to just over $100 million this fiscal year. In this regard I want to praise the tremendous efforts of our Comptroller Susana Mendoza and our Treasurer Michael Frerichs – who have been tireless advocates on behalf of getting our fiscal house in order.
From 2015 to 2017, credit rating agencies downgraded our state’s credit 8 times, which means Illinois taxpayers were paying higher interest rates.
But this year, rating agencies and analysts have noted a “distinct improvement” in our fiscal stability, and interest rates on our bonds have tumbled to their lowest rate since 2013.
That will save tens of millions of dollars for taxpayers.
Greater fiscal stability, fewer unpaid bills, lower interest payments — these are all monumental achievements in light of our state’s fiscal condition just 13 months ago.
How are we doing it?
Most of these advances are attributable to a disciplined approach to managing our state’s limited resources responsibly, and it’s important that we continue that hard work in the years ahead. The budget I propose to you today will build on the steady progress we’ve been making over the last year.
Our choices remain hard; our financial situation challenging.
In the context of the past devastation wreaked upon our state, the proposal I share today takes a disciplined approach to managing our limited resources while also investing in the very efforts that will make our state stronger: better schools, greater public safety, more job creating businesses, improved care for our most vulnerable children and seniors.
After years of poor fiscal management, of past leaders lying about how we got here, of scapegoating the wrong people and problems – our constituents deserve some honesty.
No amount of wishful thinking will wave away our structural deficit or our pension obligations.
No amount of lip service will balance the budget or fund our schools or improve public safety.
I want to give you one stark example of why a change in approach was so desperately needed.
Bruce Rauner went to war with labor unions, and one consequence of that was millions of dollars in costs for the state due to litigation and back pay.
In contrast, when I came into office I negotiated substantial health care savings and finalized fair contracts with state workers.
As a result, the upcoming fiscal year’s budget will spend $175 million less, and we will save $650 million over 4 years.
Lowering the wages of workers, trying to bankrupt the state and seeking to destroy government … didn’t work.
Also, trying to separate Chicago from the rest of Illinois, whether rhetorically or literally, will not solve the economic challenges of downstate Illinois. Quite the opposite.
Some of you need to stop pretending that one part of Illinois can exist without all the others.
We are … one Illinois.
There are realities about running a state and caring for our people that we have to face with more clear-eyed resolve, with a focus on unity and far less partisanship. Our future genuinely does depend on it.
Once again this year, I approached this budget looking to use taxpayer dollars as efficiently as possible.
I’m pleased to say that this proposed budget saves taxpayers more than $225 million annually and more than $750 million over three years through operational efficiencies, possible agency consolidations, and the elimination of excess boards and commissions. And there is potentially $100 million more in additional structural savings in fiscal year 2022 and beyond through long term initiatives.
I believe that we are sent here to effectively manage the resources necessary to deliver what Illinois families need: good schools and healthcare, clean water and clean air, paved roads and sturdy bridges, a growing economy.
Let’s all agree that effective government demands efficient government.
As we continue to make progress repairing the financial damage of the past, we must begin restoring safeguards for our future.
It starts by building up reserves in our Budget Stabilization Fund, more commonly referred to as the Rainy Day Fund.
It’s been more than a decade since the last contribution was made to the Rainy Day Fund, and it was almost entirely wiped out in 2017 under my predecessor.
The budget I am introducing today begins to restore it, dedicating $100 million to the Rainy Day Fund over the next 16 months.
In addition, in concert with Senator Heather Steans, who is one of the General Assembly’s most responsible budgeteers, Comptroller Susana Mendoza recently proposed legislation that will create mandatory annual contributions to the Rainy Day Fund – a great step to improve fiscal protection for Illinois’ future.
CREATING JOBS AND REVENUE
Here’s another responsible step we’re taking together: Last year we worked on a bipartisan basis to pass a new source of general funds revenue and create tens of thousands of jobs with the legalization of adult-use cannabis. Our first focus was on making this law the most socially equitable in the nation.
That’s why 25 percent of revenues are earmarked to reinvest directly in the communities most severely impacted by the war on cannabis.
Licensing fees from the first round of medical dispensaries have already provided a $30 million loan fund so that social equity applicants have access to capital to start new cannabis related businesses – a program that doesn’t exist in any other state at this scale.
And I pardoned more than 11,000 individuals with low-level cannabis convictions. That’s just the beginning of our effort to remove barriers to housing, employment and education for hundreds of thousands of people.
With a successful first month of sales under our belt, I can conservatively project that adult-use cannabis sales will generate at least $46 million in revenue for our general fund in the coming fiscal year, of which $10 million will go directly to pay down our bill backlog.
A second new source of revenue we passed last year is from expanded gaming – including sports betting, which appears on track to be up and running in time for March Madness.
As you know, gaming revenue directly funds our bipartisan, historic Rebuild Illinois capital plan which provides critical relief to state and local budgets for badly needed maintenance and construction work at our universities, community colleges and state facilities.
My office is working with the City of Chicago and the General Assembly to make a much needed adjustment in the legislation passed last spring to help make sure the Chicago casino is a success that will help fund projects throughout our state. I hope you all will join me in supporting these legislative efforts when they come before the General Assembly this session.
A BRIDGE TO FAIRNESS FOR ALL ILLINOISANS
Most importantly, this budget represents a bridge to the future, where I believe we have an opportunity to change our tax structure so working families are treated more fairly.
For at least the last 50 years, the burden of shoring up our state finances has fallen hardest on the 97 percent of Illinoisans who make $250,000 a year or less.
You’ve been paying a higher portion of your income, when you include income taxes, property taxes and sales taxes, than those who make a million dollars a year or more!
That’s not fair, and I’ve made it very clear that I believe it’s time for a change.
Last year, this General Assembly took an important step forward, and passed income tax rates so that working class and middle-class families will pay a lower rate and wealthy people will pay a higher rate.
I believe this is far more fair than the flat tax rate we have today. These rates would go into effect only if Illinois removes the constitutional prohibition on a graduated tax, a decision that will be made by voters in November.
If the constitutional amendment is passed, those rates will go into effect Jan. 1, 2021 – midway through our budget year.
As your governor, I take seriously my constitutional duty to offer a balanced budget that lives within our means as a state, whatever may transpire.
To address the uncertainty in our revenues, this budget responsibly holds roughly $1.4 billion in reserve until we know the outcome in November.
Because this reserve is so large, it inevitably cuts into some of the things that we all hold most dear: increased funding for K-12 education, universities and community colleges, public safety and other key investments – but as important as these investments are, we cannot responsibly spend for these priorities until we know with certainty what the state’s revenue picture will be.
Even if the graduated income tax does not take effect, our budget nevertheless continues our progress, although at a much slower pace than I think we require to get ourselves out of the hole previous administrations have dug for us.
And if the graduated tax rates do take effect, this budget proposal takes major steps to stabilize our fiscal condition and build on the historic investments and improvements we’ve made across the board to better serve the people of our state.
One of Illinois’ most intractable problems is the underfunding of our pension systems.
We must keep our promises to the retirees who earned their pension benefits and forge a realistic path forward to meet those obligations.
The fantasy of a constitutional amendment to cut retirees’ benefits is just that – a fantasy.
The idea that all of this can be fixed with a single silver bullet ignores the protracted legal battle that will ultimately run headlong into the Contracts Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
You will spend years in that protracted legal battle, and when you’re done, you will have simply kicked the can down the road, made another broken promise to taxpayers, and left them with higher tax bills.
This is not a political football. This is a financial issue that is complex and requires consistency and persistence to manage, with the goal of paying the pensions that are owed.
That’s why my budget delivers on our full pension payment and then some, with $100 million from the proceeds of the graduated income tax dedicated directly to paying down our pension debt more quickly.
We should double that number in subsequent years.
Next year would be the first year in state history that we will make a pension payment over and above what is required in statute.
It begins to allow us to bend the cost curve and reduce our net pension liability faster.
At the same time, without breaking our promises, we must relentlessly pursue pension initiatives that reduce the burden on taxpayers.
This year, the State’s required payment to the State Employees Retirement System alone will be $32 million less than it would’ve been without the optional pension buyout program.
We extended that program last year – because it’s good for taxpayers.
That’s why I’ve asked all of the state’s retirement systems to fully implement buyout programs across all our systems.
What we do to reduce future net pension liabilities for our state and local pension plans has enormously positive benefits for taxpayers.
Last year, working with members of this General Assembly, we did what no one had been able to do after more than 70 years of trying: consolidate the investments of the 650 local police and firefighters funds into two statewide systems. Because of their collective size, these funds are projected to see billions of dollars of improved returns over the next 20 years.
That means lower property tax pressure on families and businesses across the state.
This is a great example of how both sides of the aisle can come together with reasonable solutions to address intractable problems. Let’s continue on that path.
Over the past year we have made great strides to improve our schools and build back our higher education system, and this budget continues those investments.
For more than a decade, our state universities saw significant declines in enrollment. But today, because of the important investments we made in MAP grants and school funding, for the first time in many years, applications are up at our public universities — and some schools, including UIUC and Illinois State, are seeing an increase in applications not just from in-state students, but out-of-state too.
Investments in our universities are giving people and companies from all over America, and the world, new reasons to choose Illinois. Just last week, I announced that with the support of businesses and philanthropists, the state will invest in University of Illinois’ new technology hub called Discovery Partners Institute. With it, we’re supporting nearly 50,000 new economy jobs in the next ten years, with an economic impact of $19 billion. Integral to DPI’s success is the Illinois Innovation Network, which will radiate across the state to 15 other university campus hubs from Chicago to Rockford to Peoria to Edwardsville. We’re investing in workforce development, innovation and R&D all across our state.
DPI is already succeeding. Azriel Alvarado was born here in Illinois, and then moved to Panama with his parents when he was very young. He never lost his Illinois roots though, and dreamed of attending the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign to study computer science.
Azriel set his sights on their world-renowned engineering program, moving home to Illinois to attend Oakton Community College and settle back into his life in the United States. After two years, he was accepted as a transfer student into the U of I engineering school and hasn’t looked back. Azriel says most people don’t imagine community college as the path to academic success. But he learned that the most popular way to do things isn’t always the best way to do things. He’s now studying as a DPI City Scholar and intends to set down roots and become a computer scientist here in Illinois.
Azriel is just one example of how investing in our state can attract and retain invaluable talent. Azriel is here today, and I’d ask him to stand so we can recognize your terrific achievements.
Making college more affordable for in-state high school students ought to be among our state’s highest priorities. My budget proposal for next year aims to make community college tuition free to all MAP-eligible students whose families make under $45,000 a year.
Today we have two students here whose families and communities will be stronger thanks to their hard work and our investments in MAP grants. They personify exactly why we need to set aside MAP funding especially for community college students. Lincoln Land Community College here in Springfield is lucky to count them among their student body.
When Lauren Hernandez was 12, her 6-year-old sister was diagnosed with cancer. After watching how hard the nurses worked to help her sister every day, she felt drawn to the healthcare profession. When her sister passed away a few years later, it cemented Lauren’s conviction to become a nurse. Today, Lauren is married and the mother of a beautiful baby boy – and MAP grants are covering the portion of her tuition that she couldn’t afford. She’s the first person in her family to attend college. She’s working overnight shifts at St. Francis Hospital. And she’s why our future as a state is so bright. Please give Lauren a round of applause for her hard work and commitment.
I also want to introduce you all to Brandon Ihlenfeldt, who earned his GED at Lincoln Land and is in the final semester of his H-VAC program. He’ll graduate this spring with a degree and the ability to do work that he loves. Brandon is also a husband and a father, and after a full day at work at Illinois National Bank and a full evening at school, he finds time to spend with his family. But he knows that an education is the key to being able to get a good job to support them. Without MAP grants, he would’ve had to take on loans and debt, with two young children. For Brandon, this is an opportunity he wouldn’t have had otherwise; and it’s an opportunity you all made possible by expanding the MAP grant program. Please give a round of applause to a great family man and a hard worker, Brandon Ihlenfeldt.
There is no more critical investment we can make in the future of our state than in our bright and ambitious young people, like Azriel, Lauren and Brandon.
So my budget proposal adds another 20,000 new scholarship students overall, on top of the 10,000 additional MAP grant and AIM High scholars you funded this year.
And we will continue rebuilding our universities and community colleges with a 5 percent funding increase which, among other things, allows the University of Illinois to provide free tuition for students whose families make less than $67,000 per year.
Another way to make college more affordable is to help our students earn college credit before they even graduate high school, potentially savings thousands of dollars in tuition down the road.
Administrators and teachers across the state are engaged in this work — and it’s making a difference at places like Fenton High School, a majority-minority high school in Chicago’s western suburbs where most students qualify as low-income.
A few years ago, a snapshot of an Advanced Placement classroom at Fenton didn’t look much like the actual student body. So Fenton’s leadership began expanding their Advanced Placement program, and they now reach a third of the entire student body. Even more impressively: AP scores have gone up across all racial and ethnic groups.
In March, the College Board named Fenton “Advanced Placement District of the Year.”
Fenton provided the opportunity for their students to achieve extraordinary success and to save thousands of dollars on their first year’s tuition. We should follow Fenton’s lead and make it easier for more students to earn college credit in high school. My budget proposal last year requested $2 million to defray the cost of AP test fees for low income students, and you approved it. I’m making a request for FY21 of $2.5 million. It’s an innovative and cost-effective way to make college more affordable.
Speaking of removing financial barriers to college: 23 years ago our state launched an investment program that lured tens of thousands of Illinois families to invest early in their children’s educations through the College Illinois program.
The program’s creators didn’t forecast that tuition increases would outstrip market returns, and we find ourselves in a place today where the program will be insolvent in six years.
We didn’t create this problem – but we are charged with fixing it and rather than wait until the last minute, my budget puts a $27 million down payment on solvency for College Illinois in FY21.
It’s time to make good on the existing contracts families signed up for and reassure them that their children’s college tuition will be paid.
We all want our children to go to college prepared to succeed, and that means investing in public schools that serve all our students from their earliest days.
This budget makes a historic investment in K-12 schools, with a new $350 million of equitable funding, as Illinois continues down the path of ending our ignominious distinction as the worst state in the nation for state funding of public education.
This is not nearly enough to fund our schools properly and allow us to alleviate spiraling local property tax burdens throughout our state. But in a year dominated by limited resources and guided by prudent decisions about our state budget, this is the strongest investment we can afford to make today.
Funding isn’t the only determinant of a healthy school. Great teachers make great schools.
But we have thousands of unfilled teaching positions throughout Illinois.
This budget invests in strengthening our future teacher pipeline with increased funding for the Illinois Golden Apple teacher preparation program and scholarships.
I’m also proposing support for accelerator programs that help people who are seeking a second career in teaching to transition into the profession faster.
In addition, this budget seeks to address the mental health concerns that schools face with their students every day.
I’ve directed our Emergency Management Agency, Board of Education and State Police to apply for federal grants to launch a statewide school violence prevention tip line, a highly effective concept pioneered in Colorado after the Columbine tragedy.
And I’ve proposed state funding to supplement the federal grants and develop curriculum to change the culture of stigma and silence around mental health. Students, parents, teachers, friends, will be able to call in with real concerns about a child’s wellbeing — possibly even about their survival. And a professional can check in on them. Here in Illinois, our tip line will be called Safe2Help Illinois, a confidential reporting program intended to be available via text, phone call, app, and social media platforms.
Prioritizing our youngest Illinoisans offers the strongest return on investment for our future.
Kindergarten is nearly too late to begin educating a child – social emotional development begins at birth, and a child’s earliest interactions are the most important ones. That’s why I’m determined to make Illinois the best state in the nation to raise young children.
When our families lack access to quality early childhood education and childcare, we all lose.
I propose expanding our early childhood block grant funding by an additional $50 million – not as much as I would like – but responsibly moving our state another step toward universal preschool for every low-income child.
This budget also allows us to move forward on my pledge to offer evidence-based home visiting services to all of our most at-risk families with very young children, a service that is proven to pay dividends in supporting parents.
For too many families, quality childcare has become prohibitively expensive. Low and middle income parents are those hit the hardest by a rise in child care costs that has not kept pace with wages.
I’m proud to propose a continued expansion of the Child Care Assistance Program so that we can maximize federal funding to offer reduced co-pays for families of the children we serve and improve the quality of the care they receive. This will result in eligible families paying no more than 7 percent of their income for childcare.
HEALTH CARE AND HUMAN SERVICES
Since I took office, it’s been a priority to provide health care that is accessible, preventative and equitable.
For the second year in a row, I am proposing a substantial increase in mental health and addiction treatment services.
This 2021 budget includes a $40 million increase, funded in large part by revenues from the successful roll out of adult use cannabis, which dedicates 22 percent of cannabis taxes to these programs.
When I took office a year ago, we were handed an enormous Medicaid backlog of more than 140,000 people who had applied for health care coverage but whose applications were simply never reviewed.
This includes newborns, families with young children and seniors entering nursing care at the end of their lives.
People got sick and couldn’t see a doctor.
Some of the people on the list waited for more than a year.
So my teams at HFS, DHS, and DoIT worked in a concerted, collaborative effort and have reduced the backlog by 70,000 people.
That’s healthcare coverage for a population the size of Decatur. There’s more to do, and we are committed to doing it. That’s why this budget adds employees at the Department of Human Services, allowing them to help finish the job.
We also budgeted $4.5 million to restore the vital health care navigator program that the Trump administration eliminated, leaving hundreds of thousands of families and employers without any assistance.
This program helps small businesses and their employees and families lower their healthcare costs as they look for coverage options through the federal insurance marketplace.
Last year, we began restoring funding to the Home Delivered Meals program to reduce the existing waitlist and deliver proper nutrition to thousands more senior citizens.
It’s a program that improves quality of life and saves money in the long run through a reduction in chronic health problems.
For the coming year, I’ve once again proposed an increase of $2 million for the program.
As Donald Trump continues to attack the safety net for seniors, my administration is doing everything we can to fight back.
Our Department of Public Health has been hard at work over the last year, restoring the federal immunization program that my predecessor closed down, which allowed us to beat back a potential outbreak of measles and other diseases across Illinois. And once again DPH has done outstanding work coordinating with Chicago health officials and the CDC in fighting coronavirus. Thanks to their collective good work, the risk to the public remains low.
I’m also particularly proud that this budget supports the necessary additional funding for DPH to maintain our current service levels for family planning and related health services—without caving to the Trump Administration’s outrageous gag rule on women’s reproductive rights.
Child Welfare (DCFS)
There’s nowhere in state government that needs more attention and resources than the Department of Children and Family Services.
There are no overnight fixes for DCFS, no easy promises that can be made, no simple solutions for an agency that deals with some of our most complex societal problems.
There is an old saying that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.
And the second best time to plant a tree is today.
So we began planting trees last year by bringing in new DCFS leadership and outside expert advisors and monitors.
Every staff person, from top to bottom is being retrained.
New policies and procedures have been enacted, the hotline has deployed new technology and added staff.
We’re moving forward with new ideas from experts that will transform the agency. Many of the most important reforms of DCFS that are being enacted were recommended by respected experts like Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago and Casey Family Programs. Outside contractors are also working with DCFS and DoIT to bring better technology to improve how cases are tracked and more prolific use of mobile technology for caseworkers to keep better records.
After I heard from frontline workers a year ago that their jobs were harder because they couldn’t test parents on-site for substance abuse, we started rolling out on-site drug testing again.
We have a nationally acclaimed simulation program with a training lab in Springfield and newer one in Chicago, both of which provide real-life scenario training for frontline workers.
Case workers and investigators are being retrained in these simulations labs so they can learn new techniques to manage difficult cases and investigations.
Some of you have already visited these simulation labs, and I invite all of you to do so if you haven’t – and you will see why I insisted that our FY21 budget allow DCFS to open a third simulation lab in southern Illinois.
Overall, this budget proposal for DCFS increases funding by 20% compared to what the state was spending in FY19.
We will increase personnel numbers by nearly 150 new staff — that’s on top of the 300 workers we added over the last year.
This would represent an 11 percent staffing increase over the past two years.
For the contracted agencies who carry out much of the work helping children and who struggle to retain staff because of the state’s poor funding and payment delays, we are increasing funding by nearly 4 percent – only the third increase in 19 years.
One of the moral tests of government is how we treat our most vulnerable.
The funding needs of DCFS should transcend party and partisanship and be a cause we can all rally around.
It’s become something of a political sport in this state over the last several years to present our fiscal issues as insurmountable.
I’m here to tell you, they are not.
Our budget challenges are hard, no doubt about it – but it’s a myth to think they were ever easy.
Our state has grown and changed so much over the years and the complexities of running our government have evolved with it.
Our future will not be built on the shaky rhetorical foundation of those who keep rooting for us to fail.
Every decision we make about how we spend the money our citizens trust to our keeping is, at its root, a deeply moral undertaking.
These lines on a budget spreadsheet – they give peace to sleepless nights worrying about medical bills, they are delivery on a deferred dream, they stand between poverty and prosperity. A road that is properly repaired and maintained is a car accident than never happens. A strong education system is the slingshot to success allowing a child to thrive. Fully funding public safety means a life saved, a crime solved and a justice system that is more equitable and fair.
Every worry that we erase, every dream that we fund, every obstacle we remove is a small bit of happiness that we give back to our citizens. Sometimes we forget that in 2020.
We can add happiness back into people’s lives. The pursuit of happiness is the real rhetorical and moral foundation of our government. The founders were optimists too, it turns out.
With that singular focus at the heart of all that we do, with an eye to our future and with prudence and responsibility as our guiding lights, I submit this budget proposal, and I urge the General Assembly to work with me in the pursuit of happiness for all Illinoisans.
From State Senator Dan McConchie:
McConchie: Governor’s massive tax increase not the solution to a balanced budget
Springfield, IL… State Senator Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods) expressed his concerns following the Governor’s Budget Address and said another income tax increase should not be the solution:
“Despite a roaring economy and the largest tax increase in Illinois history, the Governor is proposing a budget designed to do one thing: necessitate his massive tax increase.
“There’s a better way.
“Let’s live within our means and govern responsibly without once again reaching into taxpayer pockets.
“It’s not that hard.”
In regard to how the budget will work if the Governor’s tax increase does not pass, Sen. McConchie said:
“The Governor is doing exactly what he criticized his predecessor for—holding hostage schools, infrastructure, and other things like small business owners’ tax refunds if voters don’t bend to his will.”
Here is what Mike Buehler told the McHenry County Board last night:
My name is Mike Buehler and I am a resident of Crystal Lake.
Thank you to the entire board for the opportunity to make public comment tonight.
First of all, I want to let you know that I am NOT here tonight to cast judgement regarding the recent allegations against chairman Franks.
I am here to respectfully ask the board, as leaders of the community, to find the courage to ask a few very pertinent questions that directly affect the citizens of McHenry County.
The people deserve better than to have us bury our heads in the sand when a dark cloud looms over the districts.
As reported in the Chicago Sun times on Feb 2nd, Speaker Madigan asked Illinois Secretary of State Capitol Police to ban Mr. Franks from entering the Capitol without an escort.
This extraordinary action was taken due to “credible” harassment allegations and “possible criminal conduct”.
The 3 questions I think the board and the people of our county deserve to have answered, are as follows :
- Why was the County board not notified of these restrictions by Speaker Madigan’s office or the Sangamon County state’s attorney office at the time they were imposed?
- Why didn’t Chairman Franks notify the Board of these restrictions immediately after he was made aware of them?
- Has chairman Franks been handcuffed in his ability to represent McHenry County due to his inability to enter the capital without an escort? For nearly 1 year…
The County Board Chairman’s position, as the elected leader of the Board, is a very important one.
If hampered by restrictions, or if State officials are unwilling to associate with the Highest representative of OUR County, we as a County are underserved at the least, and potentially negatively affected in ways that we cannot foresee.
To conduct business as usual, without asking for answers to questions we have a right to know, is a disservice to all of the women, and men that you serve.
Leadership requires us to ask the difficult, and yes, sometimes uncomfortable questions. I respectfully urge this Board to exercise their power to lead this County.
Capitol Fax’ Rich Miller found this answer at a candidates’ night for those seeking to replace now-State Senator Sarah Feigenholtz’ State Rep district:
“Usually, viable Democratic candidates dodge or even flat-out run away from the ‘Madigan question.’
“All but one of the Democratic HD12 candidates have found a new path: Say he should step down without actually committing to making him go away. “
Saying something like this candidate who
“…confirmed that she thought it was time for Madigan to step down: ‘I answered yes because I believe that Springfield would benefit from a new generation of leadership.’
“‘However,’ [Margaret] Croke added, ‘as I have said on several occasions, I will vote for the Democrat for speaker which in all likelihood will be Mike Madigan.'”
Instead of “I won’t back Michael Madigan for Speaker.”
Some added it was time for term limits for leaders, a concept I introduced in my candidacy for Governor as a Libertarian.
Jack Franks never said he would vote against Madigan for Speaker and he never did.
Jeanne Ives added to “On the Radar” status last month, IL-14 joins NM-02 with two “Contenders” in a district
The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) announced today the first 35 Republican candidates who’ve achieved “Contender” level in the NRCC Young Guns program for the 2020 election cycle, with 14th district candidates Jim Oberweis and Ted Gradel being two of the initial 35.
As with previous designations with “On the Radar”, the NRCC awards designations based solely on money raised and/or cash-on-hand at the end of the most recent reporting period. The level for “Contender” status is unclear and the NRCC did not disclose the dollar levels.
For reference, here are the year-end 2019 numbers.
Oberweis’ and Gradel’s “Contender” status makes the 14th district of Illinois only one of two districts with more than one Contender designation by the NRCC. The 2nd district of New Mexico being the other between Yvette Herrell and Claire Chase.
Unlike the New Mexico district, where the primary election is June 2nd, Illinois is less than four weeks away from the primary election on March 17.
As announced last month, 6th district candidate Jeanne Ives was added to the “On the Radar” status by the NRCC Young Guns program. She was not elevated to “Contender” status, which leads to at least a $400,000 cash-on-hand as a minimal threshold for qualifying for Contender status.
In the 14th, both Sue Rezin and Catalina Lauf stayed at the “On the Radar” level. Given Lauf’s poor fundraising late last year, the NRCC did not use her performance to remove her from the Young Guns program.
Rezin, like Ives, did not qualify for the “Contender” designation, though polling from multiple sources place Rezin as the strong #2 in the 14th, and the recent newspaper editorial board endorsements from the Chicago Tribune and the Daily Herald have also elevated Rezin’s name ID against Oberweis, who was endorsed by the Chicago Sun-Times.
So given the dynamics of the 14th district race, one would expect a huge TV commercial ad blitz given no polling places Gradel on the threshold to win the primary, and he did not earn a high-profile newspaper editorial endorsement like Rezin and Oberweis.
One might call it “The Pletz Challenge.”
Republican Chairman of District 2, John Pletz challenged the Northwest Herald to print what people said in public comment about McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks.
Needless to say, the NWH did nothing to sully the reputation of Franks.
Here’s what was run about search warrant for information about Franks in Mike Madigan’s office:
“Another topic addressed by several County Board members during Tuesday’s board meeting was the Illinois State Police investigation into Franks.
“McHenry County Board member Pamela Althoff requested a legal opinion from McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally as to whether the board as a whole or individual members would have any exposure or liability risks because of the investigation. She also said she would reserve judgment on the matter until the investigation concludes.
“Franks said he doesn’t expect this to be an issue, but he welcomes a written opinion from Kenneally.”
This is a press release from U.S. Senate candidate Tom Tartar:
Never-Trumper Mark Curran Blames President Trump for Losing His Election and Said He is “Horrible”
4 Weeks from Election Day, Curran Desperately Trying to Cover Up His Past Trump Attacks
SPRINGFIELD, IL – Mark Curran, who has been a Never-Trumper from day one, now is doing his best to explain himself on Facebook for outrageous comments he made to WBBM Newsradio 780 AM in 2018 and at an illegal immigration rally in 2015.
Curran, as described by the Daily Herald as someone “scowling,” has gone off the deep end on social media regarding his past actions and comments.
The scowling Curran has repeatedly said that other Republicans, including Senators Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz, made negative comments about President Trump. What Mr. Curran does not mention is that Senators Graham and Cruz only spoke about Trump negatively before he was the Republican nominee for President in 2016, but have supported our President since he was elected. Curran chose to go on a public Never-Trump rant on WBBM more than 2 years into his presidency.
Quote from Dr. Tom Tarter
“What is outrageous to me is the fact that Curran doesn’t own his own mistakes.
“From a public prayer trying to ‘save President Trump from hell’ in 2015, to blaming his election loss on Trump in 2018, to the fact that he was a Democrat who started his political career in 2006 with support from folks who oppose our conservative agenda.
“Frankly, Republican voters that support President Trump can’t in good conscience nominate a candidate who publicly bashed him a year ago but now conveniently has changed his tune.
“I am the only true President Trump-supporting conservative in this race.
“Any attempt by Mr. Curran to rebrand himself as a Trump supporter must be compared to his record, and his record is that of a Never-Trumper.”
Mark Curran on President Trump
- In 2018, before losing his Lake County Sheriff re-election campaign Curran said to WBBM Newsradio, “’We, as Republicans should probably look to take him out in some way, shape, or form because ultimately, he’s horrible for our brand.’ ‘So, if he’s the future of our party, put a fork in it.”’ 
- In 2015, while participating in an illegal immigration protest in Chicago, Curran led the audience in a prayer to save Trump “from the fires of hell and said that Trump was ‘blind.’” 
About Dr. Tom Tarter: Dr. Tom Tarter is a nationally-recognized surgeon who has focused his career on serving the people of Illinois as a renowned urologist and cancer surgeon, medical researcher and professor, and now as a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate. Dr. Tarter is a national leader in the treatment of urologic cancer who has provided care and treatment to patients in Illinois hospitals and cancer centers for the last 23 years. Residents of Central Illinois for 23 years, Dr. Tarter and his wife, Julie, have been long-time supporters of the Sangamon County Republican Party. They have 3 adopted sons, twins Andrei and Nikolai, and Sergei.
McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks was the target of several critics at Tuesday night’s Board meeting.
One was Leslie Schermerhorn, Regional Supt. of Schools, one of the three Republican countywide office holders whom Franks has tried to badger out of office.
Leslie Schermerhorn’s Remarks
Good evening citizens, members of the County Board and Mr. Franks,
My position providing support to education in McHenry County is very fulfilling.
With several degrees in education, 14 years as educator and being a lawyer, I have always felt this position was a culmination of all my professional experiences.
May 1 will begin my 8th year as Regional Superintendent.
I am proud of all that my office and I have accomplished over these years.
● We have restructured the truancy department to follow truancy cases in
an internally designed data base getting more students in school.
● I have applied for and received a grant that allows our most at-risk
students to have career skills and manufacturing training.
● I applied for and received a $650,000 Federal grant to educate our
students, families and community about the opiod crisis and other
substance abuse issues in our county
● The Regional Office assists teachers and paraprofessionals in obtaining
their certificates and renewing them. We maintain a substitute bank.
● The Office provided Professional Development for Teachers and
This is just part of what the ROE does.
As I mentioned, this position is very fulfilling given my dedication to students, teachers and education in our county.
In 2016, my work environment changed.
I was harassed and threatened by Mr. Franks.
I caught on fast to avoid a meeting alone with him.
I always brought a witness.
If fact, last fall, Mr. Frank’s assistant called to set up a budget meeting with Mr. Franks.
I informed her that my Assistant Supt. Would be joining me.
She called back saying Jack only invited me.
I sent an email back cancelling the meeting.
On September 28, 2018, Mr. Franks contacted the principal of the Regional Safe School demanding information.
The principal, my employee, referred Franks to speak with me.
Mr. Franks claimed he was the principal’s boss, he would have the principal’s certificates revoked and he knew James Meeks (the
ISBE Board President at that time).
The demands were menacing and peppered with expletives.
I have been in multiple County Board committee and Board meetings depicted as a major crime.
No money was lost, nor was there any fraud involved.
As a result, Mr. Franks eliminated our office bookkeeper position.
At the October 16, 2018 McHenry County Board meeting, Mr. Franks
threatened me with setting up an ad hoc committee on me personally.
Now, there is the non-binding referendum on the ballot.
What is the purpose of the question when the County Chair nor County Board has any jurisdiction over a State office?
County Board members, as the decision makers for McHenry County,
I am asking you to seriously consider the fitness of Mr. Franks to continue
serving as County Board Chair.
Here’s what the Village of Fox River Grove got as a result of Red Light Camera fines:
FY10 $ 444,388.00
FY11 $ 291,689.17
FY12 $ 488,822.53
FY13 $ 765,365.00
FY14 $ 656,000.00
FY15 $ 655,855.65
FY16 $ 654,894.90
FY17 $ 792,994.74
FY18 $ 814,656.19
FY19 $ 968,765.52
That’s 11.6% of village revenue.
Sent by a reader who found two bumper stickers for Topside Home Services on a pickup truck at Lowe’s in Foley, Alabama:
One says, “Dump Trump.”
The other proclaims, “Trump’s Second Term: Prison.”
The rear window has a fish symbol typically found on vehicles of Christians.
From the McHenry County State’s Attorney:
THEODORE KING SENTENCED TO SIX YEARS IN THE ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS FOR POSSESSION WITH INTENT TO DELIVER A CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE
Patrick D. Kenneally, McHenry County State’s Attorney, announces that 32-year-old Theodore King of Marengo, Illinois, pled guilty to Unlawful Possession With Intent to Deliver A Controlled Substance (Cocaine), a Class 1 felony, before the Honorable Robert Wilbrandt.
On April 23, 2019, members of the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office executed an arrest warrant at a residence in Marengo.
King was present and seen by officers to throw a bag of narcotics out of the window of the residence.
Officers recovered the narcotics and discovered it to be approximately 7.16 grams of cocaine.
The investigation was conducted by the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office and was prosecuted by Brette Dunbar of the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office.
Saturday night the McHenry County Republican Party held its Lincoln Day Dinner.
Current McHenry County College student and founder of the Turning Point USA Chapter at MCC, Alec Stone, had the “honor and privilege” of introducing Charlie Kirk to the packed room at D’Andrea’s Banquets in Crystal Lake.
Kirk asked the crowd to join him in singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Stone, who was celebrating his 19th birthday on Saturday.
This will probably go down as one of Stone’s most memorable birthdays and one with the largest crowd.
GOP candidate for McHenry County Board Chairman, Mike Buehler (front) hosted – among others – Illinois State Chairman Tim Schneider.
When Buehler was introduced, he received a standing ovation.
Another table had County Clerk Joe Tirio, Candidate for 52nd District State Rep., Marty McLaughlin, County GOP Vice Chair and County Board member Chuck Wheeler, Chairman Diane Evertsen, County GOP Secy. Karen Tirio, Dunham Township Committeeman Tyler Wilke, Kane County Chairman Ken Shepro, Guest Keynote Speaker Charlie Kirk, Founder of Turning Point USA.
American Legion Post 491 Honor Guard Michael Wisniewski, US Army & Navy Veteran Lee Lexow, John Cherone & Jimmy Martinez, US Army Veterans, enter the event for posting of our colors.
GOP County Chairman Diane Evertsen and event MC, State Senator Craig Wilcox, addressed the crowd.
Wilcox brought forward information relative to legislation being planned in Springfield and an appeal for constituents to stay in contact with their elected representatives both here locally and in DC.
Evertsen noted the large number of events the Republicans have had over the past year and plans for the upcoming season.
New participants are always welcome and encouraged to join in the fun.
Two local chapters of Turning Point USA had students in attendance at the GOP event.
High school students from Marian Central Catholic formed a great contingent, as did the McHenry County College students.
The local McHenry County Republican Party appreciates the eagerness these students show in participating in elections and promoting candidates who share Republican values.
Jim Oberweis presented Kirk with a donation in support of Turning Point USA which promotes smaller government, free markets and personal responsibility.
From State Senator Don McConchie:
From State Rep. Allen Skillicorn:
Skillicorn Respectfully Disagrees with President Trump on the Commutation of Blagojevich
Crystal Lake, IL – State Representative Allen Skillicorn respectfully disagrees with President Trump’s commutation of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich sentence.
“Trump is one of the most productive Presidents I’ve seen in years and I commend him for all the good he is doing for our country,” Skillicorn said.
“However, I must respectfully disagree with his commutation of former Democrat Governor Rod Blagojevich sentence.
“Blagojevich deserved to serve the full term for his reign of destruction as Governor of Illinois and his abuse of the public trust.”
From the Chicago Tribune:
“the White House noted that Democrats such as Illinois’ senior senator, Dick Durbin, and veteran U.S. Reps. Bobby Rush and Danny Davis, along with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, had backed a shortened prison sentence for Blagojevich.”
Here’s what Durbin said today, according to the Chicago Tribune:
“Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin: ‘Former Governor Blagojevich betrayed the people of Illinois and engaged in a pattern of corrupt behavior for which he was held accountable and which cost him more than seven years of freedom.
“‘At a time when corruption by elected officials is still in the headlines, Illinois and Washington should move quickly to establish stricter ethics requirements, including the full detailed disclosure of income, net worth, and income tax returns by all elected officials.’”