03282019 Manar Fair Tax presser 650

Fair tax presents best path forward for Illinois

SPRINGFIELD – Lawmakers in the Senate and House on Thursday presented a series of choices facing Illinois taxpayers as the state continues to dig out from an economic downturn and four years of turmoil under the previous governor.

“Taxpayers have three choices. They can say they’re OK with slashing funding for schools, universities and senior services, which would raise property taxes. They can say they’re OK with a 20 percent tax increase for every Illinoisan. Or we can update our income tax structure so that the wealthiest 3 percent of Illinoisans pay more,” said State Senator Toi Hutchinson, chair of the Senate Revenue Committee and a Chicago Heights Democrat. “I think it’s crystal clear that a fair, modern tax system is the direction we should go.”

Hutchinson was among the lawmakers who gathered Thursday at the Capitol to lay out the options for taxpayers and discuss the merits of a fair tax system in Illinois. Joining her were State Senators Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) and Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), and State Representatives Mike Zalewski (D-Riverside) and Arthur Turner (D-Chicago).

“After years of Republicans’ crisis, Illinois can move forward toward fairness and stability, or we can continue down the path of crisis and destructive cuts,” Zalewski, chair of the House Revenue and Finance Committee, said.

“Without a fair tax, nearly 17,000 seniors would lose access to Meals on Wheels, 13,000 families will be kicked off Early Intervention, and 2,300 women would lose access to lifesaving breast cancer screenings. We choose the path of fair taxes; a path that restores fiscal stability, allows us to pay off old bills, and invest in critical resources like schools and health care – all while providing tax relief for 97 percent of Illinois taxpayers.”

Manar said that despite Republican criticism of the fair tax proposal, GOP lawmakers have failed to put forth a plan of their own in the 36 days since the governor’s budget address.

“Republicans reject the fair tax approach, which means they reject reforming our unfair tax system that disproportionately benefits the wealthy,” he said. Manar noted that the Senate even changed its rules this session so that Republicans can more easily have their budget proposals heard – cuts, revenue and all.

“I pledge that if Republicans submit their complete, balanced budget, our appropriations committee will conduct hearings on their plan and consider the cuts and sacrifices Republicans are willing to make,” said Manar, who chairs one of the Senate’s two budget committees.

Harmon, who is the sponsor of legislation to amend the Constitution to allow for a fair tax, said he expects lawmakers will introduce legislation this spring that sets specific tax structure rates.

“Opponents of a fair tax are working to protect their wealthy donors at the expense of the middle class by keeping our current, unfair tax system in place,” he said. “Implementing a modern, fair tax will benefit the majority of Illinoisans, not the few who make the most.”

Category: Latest News

Sad child 350SPRINGFIELD – Illinois’ primary child welfare agency is failing families in rural and downstate Illinois, State Senator Andy Manar said Tuesday.

“There is a void in services in parts of the state where child abuse is through the roof,” said Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat who chairs one of the Senate’s two budget committees. “I believe DCFS is completely ill-equipped to handle what’s happening in the rural parts of Illinois.”

Manar’s district includes rural communities where residents sometimes step in to help children in crisis because DCFS is unresponsive or services are unavailable, and large communities like Decatur, where in February 2-year-old Ta’Naja Barnes died from starvation, freezing and neglect by her mother and mother's boyfriend.

During a budget hearing Tuesday, Manar decried the absence of children’s advocacy centers and other resources in every county of Illinois, even as there has been an increase in hotline calls and abuse investigations by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

According to DCFS data, 39 accredited children’s advocacy centers serve 95 of Illinois’ 102 counties. For example, one center in Macoupin County serves families in Macoupin, Montgomery, Greene, Jersey and Calhoun counties.

Manar asked DCFS officials for more detailed information about the number and location of calls to the DCFS child abuse hotline, locations where abuse investigators work and more. He criticized DCFS for failing to make a sufficient budget request for the upcoming fiscal year that would allow it to properly serve the children and families of Illinois.

“I think we can all agree there’s a crisis on our hands when it comes to many aspects of what DCFS is charged with doing. We recite the names of dead children in this hearing once a year,” Manar said. “I want to know how much it’s going to take the department to do the job that it’s tasked with doing. If it’s a big number, it’s a big number.”

Category: Latest News

03122019 Manar 350SPRINGFIELD – Aspiring educators no longer would be required to pass a basic skills test and student teachers could receive a paycheck under State Senator Andy Manar’s latest plan to address Illinois’ teacher shortage crisis.

In addition, the proposal would reinstate the 6 percent cap for teacher salary increases to be covered by the state. Last year, lawmakers lowered the cap to 3 percent.

Manar’s measure (Senate Bill 1952) was approved by the members of Senate Education Committee Tuesday. It received bipartisan support and has bipartisan sponsorship in the Senate.

“These are three things I hear in almost complete unison from teachers across the state – in both rural and large school districts – that in various ways impact the profession and the ability to recruit and retain qualified teachers,” Manar (D-Bunker Hill) said.

Three solutions are outlined the proposal:

  • Passing a basic skills test would no longer be a requirement to be a teacher. Research shows the test is a barrier to many qualified would-be teachers receiving their Professional Educator License in Illinois.
  • Removes the prohibition on student teachers being paid for their work. The plan would allow school districts, higher education, foundations and others to work together to solve local teacher shortages.
  • Reinstates the 6 percent cap for salary increases for teachers to be covered by the Teachers Retirement System. Last year lawmakers lowered the cap to 3 percent.

“The salary cap is something I hear about regularly from constituents who work in education. It poses a challenge for recruiting and retaining qualified teachers, and it creates unnecessary competition among school districts that are vying for the same teaching candidates,” Manar said. “We have to tear down barriers to putting teachers in classrooms, not create new ones.”

Last year, Manar passed a different set of measures to address the teacher shortage crisis, including slashing red tape to encourage educators outside of Illinois to apply for hard-to-fill jobs here, creating a short-term substitute teaching license and allowing downstate retired teachers to substitute in classrooms without jeopardizing their retirement benefits. The packaged was signed into law in June.

Category: Latest News

03122019 Manar Teacher Min Wage Interview 650

Points to teacher minimum wage plan as one remedy

SPRINGFIELD – Without an increase to the teacher minimum wage and other changes to reverse Illinois’ teacher shortage, people should get comfortable with reports like one released this week showing the crisis is worsening, State Senator Andy Manar said today.

“Either you’re comfortable with the crisis, or you should be comfortable with changes in state policy to fix it. That’s a pretty easy choice,” Manar (D-Bunker Hill) said.

Manar is the sponsor of a plan to incrementally raise the minimum wage for teachers in Illinois to $40,000. The plan, which is meant to attract more young teachers to the profession, had bipartisan support last year but was vetoed by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

According to a report released this week by the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools, 85 percent of schools surveyed are experiencing difficulty filling teacher positions – up from 78 percent in 2017. The shortage is worse in central and southern Illinois.

Furthermore, substitute teacher shortages are a serious problem at roughly 5 in 8 school districts. And a majority of superintendents indicated that vacant positions listed in the fall of 2018 remain unfilled or are being filled unqualified professionals. This resulted in 225 classes being canceled.

A total of 527 school districts responded to the survey.

“If we don’t change the course we’re on, it’s only logical that next year’s report is going to look worse than this year’s,” Manar said. “The first immediate thing we can do in Springfield to address this crisis is establish a livable base rate of pay for teachers and raise it incrementally.”

Manar said a higher minimum salary reflects the state’s respect and support for teachers, as well as the education required to be a teacher and the work they do in classrooms.

“We have to hold up the profession of teaching, we have to celebrate our teachers, we have to root for their success and we have to guarantee them a decent rate of pay when they start teaching,” he said. “A higher minimum salary will go a very long way to recruiting young people to fill these vacant classrooms that exist in nearly every downstate community today.”

Category: Latest News

School Funding Reform

 

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Springfield Office:
119A Capitol Building
Springfield, IL 62706
Phone: (217) 782-0228

Decatur Office:
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141 S. Main St., Suite 502
Decatur, IL 62523
Phone: (217) 429-8110

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