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Senator Bush

June 23, 2014

Dear Friends,

 

The spring session of the General Assembly has officially adjourned, but my work as your senator continues. I will be spending the next six months in Lake County hosting everything from town hall events to job fairs. Please join me to share your concerns or make use of the various services my office provides.

 

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

 

BudgetThe Budget:

In the final days of the legislative session the state budget was as contentious an issue as ever. Since the temporary tax increase of 2011 was set to expire this coming January, the General Assembly was faced with the very real prospect of serious cuts in state services, education and public safety that could have a disastrous effect on Illinois residents. The General Assembly was able to pass a reasonably flat budget, however we did so through one-time borrowing. It is, by no means, a perfect plan and in my opinion was the best of a series of bad options. It will make for much more difficult financial circumstances when that money starts to run out.

 

So…What happened to the money from the tax increase?

Many people are interested in where the money from the income tax increase has gone over the last four years. The 2011 increase produced $31.6 billion in additional revenue dollars. That revenue has helped us pay down our bill backlog by billions. The backlog grew as high as $9.2 billion during the 2012 budget year; however we are on track to pay down an additional $3.6 billion in old bills to vendors by the end of the current year. As it stands today, we’ve cut the bill backlog by more than 1/3 in just three short years and most of the remaining past-due bills are less than 60 days old.

 

It’s good news that we’re catching up on most of our old bills. However, we can’t make progress and move Illinois forward without making the investments that will allow us to be competitive. We need creative long-term solutions to our budget problems, which includes a comprehensive plan that reduces the income tax burden while finding ways to fill revenue holes. That’s why I’m focusing on the best revenue generator of all…economic development and jobs.

 

Economic Development:

 

EconThis year, much of my legislative efforts went to programs that put Lake County and Illinois in a better position to compete for good-paying jobs.

 

I sponsored Senate Bill 217, a measure that is currently awaiting passage in the House of Representatives, which would create the first Illinois State Training and Employment Program (I-STEP). With some of Illinois’ highest unemployment in parts of Lake County, closing the skills gap and getting workers trained for those good-paying jobs is one of my top priorities.

 

Employers would partner with community colleges and key organizations to provide effective, customized job training that will get our workforce prepared to use new technologies and back to work.

 

Employers who use the I-STEP program to add jobs to the Illinois workforce would receive tax credits to pay for the cost of training. And with no up-front cost to the state of Illinois, this is a win for everyone. Read More

 

In addition to I-STEP, one of my top priorities this session was to improve Illinois’ ability to retain and attract businesses in border communities like Lake County. We are often the target of business poaching efforts from states like Wisconsin, and Illinois lacks a strong strategic plan to address that reality.

 

I sponsored a proposal (awaiting the governor’s signature) that tasks our best minds from the private and public sector with developing and recommending a business retention plan unique to border communities. Read More

 

Education Initiatives:

 

EducationAs a member of the Education Funding Advisory Committee, I believe we have made great strides over the last year and have identified undeniable problems with the current K-12 public education funding formula. While I strongly support education funding reform, the bill that passed the Senate in May was not acceptable or equitable for the schools in our area – some of whom stood to lose nearly 80% of their state funding.

 

I am committed to ensuring that every child in Illinois gets a good education. But until the state meets current minimum school funding obligations there’s no way we can truly achieve funding equity. Read More

 

Over the last year, I have also been working closely with members of Decoding Dyslexia – an advocacy group committed to easing the struggles of students with dyslexia. With their help, I was able to pass a measure out of the General Assembly that will improve the way Illinois school districts’ teach dyslexic students. Read More

 

EducationFortunately I was also successful in passing a measure that makes school transfers easier for children of active duty military personnel. Military children statistically move far more than the average student. This proposal, which passed the Senate and the House and now awaits the governor’s signature, ensures that military children who move to Illinois from other states remain in the same grade and guarantees their ability to play in extracurricular sports if they so choose. Read More

 

Earlier this month, the governor also signed two of my education initiatives into law. The first allocates more money to support early childhood education and to financial incentives for continuing teacher education.

 

The second incentivizes teacher success by streamlining the requirements to apply for a $1,500 annual incentive to teachers who achieve Illinois Master Teacher certification.

 

Transportation Victories:

 

I am very pleased to announce more than $18 million in highway, bridge and local road repair projects in the 31st Senate district. The majority of the money promised to Lake County is part of a larger $1.1 billion construction plan that does not call for any new taxes or fees to finance the construction. Instead, the state will reallocate money that is no longer needed to pay off construction bonds.

 

In addition to the $1.1 billion construction project, the General Assembly also passed a $100 million transportation measure that will help local governments with their road upkeep. Lake County, various townships and most local communities are all scheduled to receive local transportation funding totaling nearly $3 million from this program.

 

Lake County is often forgotten about when it comes to transportation needs. We have a huge number of highways and bridges that are in desperate need of upkeep and structural repair. One of my top priorities has been to address these issues and keep our highways and bridges safe for drivers. Read More

 

Upcoming District Events: This summer I am excited to announce quite a few district events to help and inform local residents. More details will be announced in my next newsletter. Our first event is:

 

Round Lake Area Senior Fair

 

Date: Wednesday, July 23rd

Time: 9:00 – 11:00 a.m.

Location: Round Lake Area Cultural & Civic Center, 2007 N. Civic Center Way Round Lake Beach

We are also planning several additional senior fairs, town hall meetings and job fairs. Click here for more details.

 

Sincerely,
Senator Bush
Senator Melinda Bush
31st District – Illinois

 

 

District Office

34121 US Highway 45, Suite 224 • Grayslake, IL 60030

847-548-5631 (Phone)

 

Springfield Office

M122 Capitol Building • Springfield, IL 62706

217-782-7353 (Phone)

 

www.SenatorMelindaBush.com/

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Contact Me

Springfield Office:
218 Capitol Building
Springfield, IL 62706
Phone: (217) 782-7353

District Office:
10 N. Lake St., Suite 112
Grayslake, IL 60030
Phone: (847) 548-5631