05052017CM0482SPRINGFIELD – A new bipartisan task force will be created to find ways to save taxpayers money under a new law sponsored by State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) and signed into law by Governor JB Pritzker.

Senate Bill 1932 creates the Property Tax Relief Task Force, which will explore potential solutions to reducing Illinois’ high property tax rates and make recommendations to the General Assembly.

“For years our state had a regressive school funding formula that drove up rates and placed the majority of the burden on property owners,” Manar said. “Taxpayers have been forced to pay these exorbitant rates for far too long and it’s time to take a serious look at ways to resolve this problem.”

The task force will be made up of a bipartisan group of lawmakers from both the Senate and House of Representatives as well as individuals appointed by the governor.

The Department of Revenue, State Board of Education and Governor’s Office of Management and Budget will also work with the task force.

“We’ve made great strides toward fixing our school funding formula and the next step in that process is reducing the property tax burden and transitioning toward making state funding the predominant sources of support for schools,” Manar said. “This task force is one of the first steps in that process and I’m confident that by bringing Democrats and Republicans together to talk about this issue, we’ll be able to work together to find the solutions we need.”

Manar has made easing the tax burden on property owners a focus of his tenure. This May, he also passed a bill out of the Senate that would freeze property taxes in most Illinois school districts as long as the state properly funds schools through its evidence-based funding formula. The legislation was not taken up by the House.

Senate Bill 1932 passed both chambers of the General Assembly unanimously. It will take effect immediately.

04102019CW0149SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Andy Manar is calling for a full review of state contracts and funding awarded to Land of Lincoln Goodwill following the nonprofit’s decision to pull paychecks from disabled workers.

The nonprofit recently told dozens of workers with disabilities that they would be laid off due to the state’s increase in the minimum wage even though the one dollar per hour increase doesn’t take effect for five months and it is exempt by the U.S. Department of Labor from paying these employees the minimum wage.

“An organization that eliminates opportunity for the most vulnerable people in the state while simultaneously driving up executive compensation should be ashamed of itself,” said Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat. “Blaming a minimum wage increase that hasn’t even gone into effect and that does not apply to these workers after receiving an increase in taxpayer funding is unacceptable.”

According to a WCIA report, the executive director of the Land of Lincoln Goodwill is currently making $164,000. Further tax records show that Land of Lincoln Goodwill raised executive compensation for two positions during the height of the budget impasse by $86,155 over 3 years.

Land of Lincoln Goodwill currently receives nearly $400,000 in taxpayer funded contracts and was slated to receive a 3.5 percent funding increase under the state’s new budget.

Manar sent a letter to the Illinois Department of Human Services, the Department of Central Management Services and Governor JB Pritzker this morning asking for a review of all contracts with the nonprofit.

“When I work to craft and vote to support a state budget to increase funding for human services programs to benefit the well-being of the most vulnerable, it is not my intention to line the six figure pockets of executives at non-for-profit entities like Ms. Durbin.  Goodwill’s mission statement explicitly states its intent to enhance people’s dignity by eliminating barriers to opportunity,” Manar said. “There seems to be an abundance of opportunity today for Ms. Durbin but not so much for Goodwill’s now unemployed disabled workers. Unfortunately, local Goodwill executives are on the wrong path and we must now take extra steps to ensure taxpayer dollars are being used properly and for their intended purposes.”

03132019CM1376SPRINGFIELD, Illinois – There’s some hope on the horizon for scores of Illinois residents who are the victims of growing drug prices and shrinking numbers of available pharmacies.

State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) today announced that the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services is finally implementing the Critical Access Pharmacy Program, providing $10 million in additional funding to keep rural, independent pharmacies open.

Throughout rural Illinois communities, consumers have experienced skyrocketing drug prices because of the poorly-regulated Pharmacy Benefit Manager (PBM) industry. PBM operations craft special deals with large corporate chain stores that small, independent and locally-owned operations can’t compete with. As a result, the small businesses are closing their doors and residents are forced to travel long distances to get the medications they need.

“Rural, independent pharmacies have long been at a disadvantage and some people in my district have been left with no options for miles around,” said State Senator Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat. “If we don’t take action now, we’re going to see costs continue to rise and competition continue to be stamped out.”

The Critical Access Pharmacy Program was included as a part of last year’s state budget, but implementation was stalled by then-governor Bruce Rauner. Today the effort is back online and Manar says he’s hopeful the quick implementation will provide much-needed relief for local pharmacies.

“This funding is going to be a major boost for rural pharmacies and will help keep them open while we find ways to combat the rising cost of prescription drugs,” said Manar, who helped ensure the inclusion of the funding in the budget. “I’m glad to see that we’re finally leaving the gridlock of the past behind and bringing this needed program to communities that are at risk of losing their local pharmacies.”

Manar also passed legislation, House Bill 465, this spring that would create a framework allowing the state to regulate PBMs, which negotiate drug prices and benefits on behalf on insurers to increase profit margins.

PBMs are largely unregulated and have not been subject to oversight, auditing or transparency laws in Illinois, even though they manage public money through the Medicaid program.

By increasing the prices of prescription medication, they often drive out competition, particularly in underserved rural areas.

“These middle men have been able to influence this industry essentially unchecked and it’s consumers who are bearing the brunt of the cost,” Manar said. “These practices are unfair and exploitative and I’m proud to sponsor legislation that will give us the authority to crack down on bad actors.”

House Bill 465 is currently awaiting the governor’s signature.

04122019CM0717SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Andy Manar expressed his congratulations today to two Central Illinois educators and 48th District residents on their appointment and swearing in to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) this spring.

“It was important to me that rural school districts in Downstate Illinois were represented on the State Board of Education and I expressed that sentiment to Governor Pritzker.  I applaud the Governor’s appointment of Susan Morrison and Dr. David Lett who will be strong voices for small schools while balancing the needs of the entire state,” said Manar.

Susan Morrison, of Carlinville, and David Lett, of Rochester, are among seven newly sworn in members who will serve four-year terms on the State Board of Education.

Morrison, who was first appointed to the board in 2017, has worked as an Illinois educator and an advocate for children for nearly 40 years. She began her career in education in the Central Illinois communities of Homer and Girard as a social studies teacher and later worked as a building principal and director of curriculum and instruction.

Morrison also has statewide experience in education, serving as state director for several state and federal programs, including gifted education and school improvement. She retired from ISBE in 2015 as deputy superintendent and chief education officer before returning to serve on the board.

“Susan Morrison’s extensive experience prepared her well for her first two years on the board, during which she demonstrated how capable she is at addressing problems facing public education in Illinois,” said Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat. “She is more than deserving of another four years in her position, and I’m confident that she will continue to show leadership and effectively advocate on behalf of Illinois’ students and faculty.”

Dr. David Lett, who is serving his first term on the Board, has dedicated over 35 years as a teacher and leader in both K-12 schools and higher education. He began his career as a social science teacher before serving as a principal and assistant principal.

Lett also spent 16 years as superintendent of Pana Community Unit School District 8. He was one of the Central Illinois superintendents who approached Manar in 2012 about the need for a complete re-write of the school funding formula.  Dr. Lett is currently an adjunct professor in the Education Leadership Department at the University of Illinois Springfield.

“With over three decades of experience in education at the local level as both a teacher and an administrator, Dr. Lett understands better than just about anyone the challenges school districts face,” Manar said. “He will be an excellent addition to the board, he will represent Downstate Illinois with a strong voice, and I look forward to working with him to fight for Illinois schools.”

 

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