All Press Items
1. The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability is correct when they state that we should be refinancing current pension debt. The ramp payments that we now find ourselves having to make each year are overwhelming the budget. Plus we are paying interest on that debt, which could be cut in half through refinancing.
2. I have advocated for local school districts to assume responsibility for their own pension payments with the state reimbursing them for portions of the cost. It would be a fairer system for our downstate districts and teachers. Other than Chicago Public Schools, the teachers pension system covers the entire state. The reality is that teachers in the collar counties around Chicago are paid more than teachers downstate, so a disproportionate percentage of our income tax dollars is being sent north to cover suburban pensions.
3. Our education funding formula is broken. That’s why I voted for Senate Bill 1, to change to an evidence-based model that prioritizes schools in need. But it also includes a “hold harmless” clause for all schools. What this means is that wealthier schools will not suffer a loss of funding from where they are today, which was the only way some legislators were able to vote for this.
4. Higher education, and I would add our social service organizations, have been bearing the brunt of having no state budget. All the facts stated in Sunday’s Opinion piece show the devastation that the lack of a state budget is causing. Our colleges and universities and social service agencies are suffering. I would be interested in looking at the Wisconsin model for our state universities, but we need to recognize that it still takes money to properly invest in our future.
5. We need two things to make our state budget work. More revenue, and more cuts. Both. I will vote for a budget that recognizes that reality.
In summary, I have voted for every single bill in the grand bargain that has been presented. Not because I was in love with those bills (some actually were pretty tough to vote for), but because compromise means everyone has to give up something to achieve a solution. I have done so because I believe Senate President John Cullerton and Republican Leader Christine Radogno want to do the responsible and right thing. The governor needs to recognize that drawing a line in the sand is not the definition of negotiation. The reality is that if we can’t negotiate a budget soon, our debt will be over $25 billion at the end of the governor’s four-year term. How do we survive that?
State senator, 46th District