Springfield, IL – Union leaders found nothing hopeful about the recent State of the speech delivered by Gov. Bruce Rauner, even though he talked about improving education in the state and called for bipartisanship.
The Illinois AFL-CIO said Rauner’s 10 “long-term goals” for education would do little or nothing to improve teaching, learning or student success. One such goal is “more flexibility” to weaken negotiating rights.
A group of superintendents said that while Rauner claims to want more funding for education, he also wants to reduce property taxes – the main source of funding for school districts, creating an impossible contradiction.
Rauner did not mention that the state has gone most of a year without a budget, forcing social services and universities to make cuts instead of improving services.
“The middle class is suffering while the governor continues to call for policies to lower wages and worker protections,” the AFL-CIO said in its report.
The coalition Illinois Working Together issued this statement:
“Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration has been an unmitigated disaster for the working people and most vulnerable citizens of Illinois.
“He has repeatedly shown an inability or unwillingness to work together, instead forcing conflict and demanding divisive policies that benefit the wealthy at the expense of the rest of us. He said nothing to change that.”
STILL NO BUDGET
Metro-East representatives called on Rauner to agree to a responsible budget that maintains the state’s essential services.
“Our budget should be made by cutting government waste and closing corporate loopholes,” said Rep. Dan Beiser (D-Alton). “It should not be done on the backs of the people who need our help the most.
“The governor began his address by saying that we need to improve the quality of life for all families in Illinois, yet he keeps pushing an agenda that people across our state do not want… that will reduce wages for hard-working men and women and send injured workers onto welfare.”
Sen. Bill Haine (D-Alton) said the governor’s actions don’t match his words.
“I appreciate the governor trying to be more bipartisan and acknowledge he is willing to work with us on some issues,” Haine said. “However, the fact is we are not paying our bills. College students are not receiving their financial aid, homebound seniors continue to suffer and mothers are lacking access to day care.
“I hope the governor is ready to sit down and engage in an open and constructive dialogue on these issues. I am willing to work with the governor in order to get Illinois back on track.”
Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Swansea) said he has been involved with legislative efforts that show how the parties can work together on common-sense legislation to benefit both workers and businesses – and that Rauner should have been paying some attention.
“The people of the Metro East deserve better than the gridlock and political game-playing that continues in Springfield,” he said. “However, instead of using his State of the State address to talk about working together and passing a responsible budget, the governor doubled down on his attacks on the middle class.
“Instead of welcoming businesses, reducing property taxes and building the middle class, Illinois has been plagued with a budget impasse that is bad for business, bad for the middle class and bad for our most vulnerable residents.”
VETO PROMISED FOR COLLEGE MONEY
At the same the budget was being talked about, the Democratic-led legislature again approved funding for the Monetary Award Program (MAP), which gives low-income and middle-income student a chance to go to college.
The bill passed the Senate with both Haine and Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) voting for it. Rauner vetoed the earlier measure in May and now is promising yet another veto.
“If we truly value education and opportunity for every student, we need to prioritize MAP,” Manar said. “I urge the governor to realize the importance of MAP and sign this as soon as possible so we can honor the state’s commitment to these students.”
Last year, MAP provided funding for roughly 128,000 students. It is estimated that this legislation would extend grants to an additional 15,000 low-income students with a total of $397 million in funding.
The average family income for a student receiving MAP is $30,000 per year, and 57 percent of MAP recipients are the first in their families to attend college.
The legislation, Senate Bill 2043, also provides funding for community colleges, vocational training and adult education programs. The AFL-CIO noted that no Republicans voted for the bill in either the House or Senate.
Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said the governor will veto the bill.
“House and Senate Republicans continue to be a rubber stamp for Gov. Rauner, even when it means voting against the people in their district,” the AFL-CIO report said.