Legislation provides financial relief funded by volunteer check-off; Executive order ensures full pay to state workers called up
NORTH RIVERSIDE -- Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich participated Friday in the official send-off of members of two Illinois National Guard units who will be supporting U.S. military efforts overseas.
The governor also used the occasion to sign legislation that would provide much-needed relief to the families of Guard members and reservists who face increased financial burdens when a wage-earner is called up for duty. In addition, Blagojevich signed an executive order ensuring consistent pay for state workers who serve in such units.
Blagojevich reviewed members of the 933rd Military Police Unit and the 1244th Transportation Company prior to their deployment. Approximately 350 members of the units will be sent to the United States Central Command (USCENTCOM) theater of operations where they will provide support for Operation Enduring Freedom.
“On behalf of the people of Illinois, I wish each of you a successful and safe mission,” the governor said.
“I also want to express to you the deep gratitude of people around this state,” he said.
He called the men and women of the Illinois National Guard the living embodiment of the “citizen soldiers” envisioned by America’s founding fathers.
Blagojevich also cited the “enormous contributions” made to this effort by the families of the Guard and reserve members, as well as the challenges that they face.
“It is fitting that we use this occasion to recognize their role, too, and to honor their special service, and help ease some of the burdens they face,” he added, as he prepared to sign into law the Illinois Military Families Relief Fund Act.
“This act recognizes that tremendous pressures are placed on the families of men and women who are sent to serve,” he said.
The act establishes a trust fund allowing the families of Guard members and reservists to receive emergency financial grants and general financial support, helping make up the decline in household income that occurs when a wage-earner is called up to service.
The fund will be financed through a volunteer “check off” on people’s income tax forms, “giving all Illinois taxpayers the chance to play a direct and meaningful role in helping military families meet their financial needs.”
Blagojevich praised the efforts of Lt. Governor Pat Quinn, who was instrumental in the passage of the bill. He also cited the work of Representative Mike Boland (D-East Moline) and Senator Chris Lauzen (R-Aurora), two of the sponsors of the bill, who were also scheduled to attend.
The ceremony was held at the North Riverside armory.
The governor also congratulated several members of military families who led the efforts on the homefront to help military families-- in particular, Brenda & Karlas Robinzine; Mary Beth & Will Beiersdorf; and Beth & Peter Kell. While the three men had been deployed to guard Al Qaeda and Taliban detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba following September 11, 2001, their wives worked with Quinn to encourage the General Assembly to pass the bill.
Blagojevich also cited the contributions made by employers across this state who enable workers to devote time to training for and service in the Guard and reserves.
In addition to the legislation, Blagojevich also signed an executive order on Friday. The measure will ensure that all state employees who are members of the Guard and Reserves continue to receive the same level of pay and benefits when called up to serve.
“I am proud to be here today with you,” the governor said to the Guard members as they prepared to deploy, adding: “I look forward to the day when we welcome you back to Illinois.”