The 2018 legislative session adjourned on May 31. I'd like to catch you up on what transpired, where we made progress, and what work is still ahead.
I'll be sending a few emails in the coming days explaining some of this, but we'll also be doing it in person at our upcoming town hall meeting:
End of Session Town Hall
Haas Park Fieldhouse, 2402 N Washtenaw Ave (Entrance is through the park on Fullerton Ave)
Wednesday, July 11th 2018 at 6pm
Let's start by talking about the budget.
First of all, we have one! As you may remember, after Bruce Rauner got elected, the state went three years without passing a budget. The results of this impasse were catastrophic for our most vulnerable neighbors and for the people who take care of them.
So I can't overstate the importance of simply having passed a balanced budget. It will provide predictability and stability for our educators, public health providers, and human service organizations.
And despite the state's difficult financial situation, we were able to provide increased funding to some areas that really needed it. K-12 education got an increase of $350 million, including hundreds of millions which will come to Chicago's schools. Public universities saw a 2% increase in operational funding after suffering through decades of cuts, and we created a $25 million scholarship for low-income students. We restored funding to anti-violence and mental health programs, and created new state funding to combat the opioid crisis. And based on other emerging crises, we dedicated special funds to protecting our elections and ensuring access to services for vulnerable immigrant populations.
Of course, the budget is far from perfect. We didn't do anything to address our long-term pension obligations. And we didn't take the kind of dramatic action that will be required to address our state's persistent challenges: stagnant wages, unemployment, violence and instability, and the too-high costs of healthcare, housing, and education from preschool to college.
Those challenges will cost money to fix. That's why I remain a proponent of fair tax brackets in Illinois so that rich folks pay more, the rest of us pay less, and the state brings in the money it needs to start creating solutions. I've also continued to fight for closing corporate loopholes in the state's tax code.
We weren't able to make progress on those revenue solutions this year, but I'm hopeful that the conditions will be more favorable next year.
Please send along any questions you might have about this budget stuff. My next email will talk about some of the bills I worked on this year and how far they've gotten through the process.
All my best,