ROCKFORD – Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Director Doug Scott joined over 50 Rockford organizations and individuals, including healthcare providers and advocates, business owners, education supporters, and other nonprofit organizations, where he accepted endorsements for the Governor’s Investing in Families Initiatives, the Governor’s proposed budget for FY08. The proposed budget includes the Illinois Covered plan to provide affordable comprehensive insurance to all Illinoisans, the Helping Kids Learn plan to invest an additional $10 billion in Illinois schools over the next four years, the Tax Fairness Plan that requires big wealthy businesses to pay their fair share and gives the middle class the relief it deserves, and a plan to address the state’s long-time pension deficit and ensure secure retirements for thousands of workers.
“This year we are taking a leap towards the future,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “If the General Assembly passes these initiatives, the future promises fully-funded schools for our kids, affordable comprehensive health insurance for all Illinoisans, and a fair tax system. I am proud of the support Rockford small businesses and organizations have given to this plan and look forward to working with them to win legislative support.”
Businesses, local government and nonprofit organizations from the Rockford area are praising Gov. Blagojevich’s forward thinking initiatives and stand by his healthcare plan. With nearly 15 percent of adults in Winnebago County without health insurance, many in the area believe that the Governor’s proposed Illinois Covered plan will bring much needed relief.
“As a small business owner I support Governor Blagojevich’s initiative on healthcare as I understand the need for health insurance amongst many of my employees. We are unable to provide health insurance to our employees because of the cost of premiums,” said Michelle Caldwell, Owner, Global Staffing Services, Inc.
“I support the Governor's Healthcare Plan because I want to hire employees. Under the current circumstances, providing healthcare insurance to an employee is very expensive. I just can't afford it,” said Oliver Emerson, President, Oliver Emerson Development LLC and President, E & M Homes Inc. “Under the Governor's Small Business initiative, insurance would be affordable.”
“The rising costs of healthcare make it nearly impossible for my workers who pay their taxes to get the health insurance they need. As a small business owner, one of the greatest fears I have is losing employees because of not having these health benefits that I can’t currently provide,” said Duntai Mathews, President, D.L.M Manufacturing Inc.
Gov. Blagojevich has put forth a historic budget proposal with fundamental changes that will benefit the people of Illinois for generations to come. The Governor’s Illinois Covered will ensure all 1.4 million uninsured have access to quality, affordable healthcare, and will help many middle-income families and small businesses that are currently enrolled in health insurance plans save thousands a year on healthcare costs. The plan will also reform the existing healthcare system to improve quality and require more accountability.
“Rosecrance currently has 700 individuals on a waiting list for up to six months to either be assessed or admitted to treatment. Illinois Covered would assist with access and have a tremendous impact on this waiting period,” said Phil Eaton, President and CEO of Rosecrance.
“Last year, Governor Blagojevich made a promise to clean up mercury from our environment to improve the health of every Illinoisan. It was an ambitious plan that many said could not be done, but today we have one of the most stringent mercury reduction programs in the United States,” said Doug Scott, Director of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. “Now is the time to build on that progress, and help deliver another promise to help every Illinoisan get access to the healthcare. It is a privilege to stand with community leaders and advocates in Rockford in support of the Governor’s bold initiatives for working families.”
Also included in the Investing in Families Initiatives is the Governor’s Helping Kids Learn, which continues the Governor’s commitment to schools by boosting funding by an unprecedented $1.5 billion in Fiscal Year 2008. Under the plan, general state aid to schools will increase by $800 million, raising the Foundation Level by $724 to $6,058. With more funds per pupil, schools can make investments to improve textbook quality, modernize their technology, or invest in teachers. Education leaders see a connection between health care and student success.
“Many of our students do not have access to health coverage, and for them, the primary provider is the emergency room,” said Superintendent Mike Duffy of the South Beloit Unit School District. Duffy’s district has opened an innovative school health clinic that provides care and promotes healthy practices among students. While the clinic requires funds that are also needed in the classroom, Duffy sees it as a crucial investment. “When students wait until an emergency to take care of their health, they miss school and fall behind. You can’t learn if you aren’t in school.”
Under the plan, the state will give schools additional funds, increase funds to hire special educations teachers and fully fund “mandated categorical” programs like special education and transportation. The plan will accelerate implementation of Preschool for All and dedicate additional resources for school districts that provide full-day kindergarten. Underperforming school districts will get extra funds for if they invest in proven strategies that raise student achievement. For Illinois’s deteriorating schools, the plan will invest in a capital construction plan for projects so children can learn and teachers can teach in a more conducive environment.
The Governor proposed a major reform of Illinois’ corporate tax system in order to provide sustainable funding for education and healthcare. In Illinois, the share of state revenues coming from individual income taxes instead of corporate income taxes has consistently increased during each of the last three decades. To reverse that trend, Gov. Blagojevich unveiled a Tax Fairness Plan in his Budget Address earlier this month.
The Governor’s Tax Fairness Plan implements a Gross Receipts Tax (GRT) that has been embraced by many economists because of its broad base and low rates. States including Washington, Delaware and Hawaii have had a GRT for years, and recently, Ohio and Texas have adopted a form of the tax. The tax will better reflect the changes in Illinois’ economy since the Corporate Income Tax was implemented thirty years ago when goods dominated the state’s economy. Today ‘new economy’ businesses – primarily services – represent the majority of Illinois’ business activity. In fact, goods-based businesses make up only 35 percent of Illinois’ economy, but pay 53 percent of the corporate income tax; services-based businesses make up 65 percent of Illinois’ economy, but pay only 47 percent of the corporate income tax.
The GRT will only apply to businesses that make more than $1 million each year, which means that small businesses – 75 percent of all businesses in Illinois – will be exempt. The GRT will tax service industries at a low 1.8 percent, while manufacturers, construction, retail and wholesale companies will be taxed at an even lower .5 percent. Exports will not be taxed. The plan also mitigates costs being passed on to consumers by excluding certain goods, such as retail food and pharmaceuticals. By transitioning to the GRT, Illinois will rid itself from loopholes that allow major corporations to avoid paying their fair share of taxes to the state, and is expected to generate $3 billion in new revenue in fiscal year 2008, and more than $6 billion during its first full year in effect.
The Governor’s budget also addresses the State of Illinois’ increasing pension obligation – the state’s most pressing structural deficit challenge. Thirty years of under-funding the state employee pension system, combined with passing billions of dollars in unfunded pension sweeteners, has created the largest state pension debt in the nation. Gov. Blagojevich laid out a landmark plan that would use the proceeds from a long-term lease the Illinois State Lottery to provide an immediate infusion of at least $10 billion into the state’s pension system. He also proposed issuing $16 billion in pension obligation bonds that will help put the system on stronger fiscal footing. Altogether, the Governor’s plan will save more than $60 billion between now and 2045.
The following Rockford groups and individuals endorsed the Governor’s plan:
Vanessa Adams, citizen; Donna, Bileto, Northwestern Illinois Area Agency on Aging; Dwayne Collins, citizen; Philip Eaton, Roscerance Health Network; Oliver Emerson, Oliver; Emerson Dev & E&M Homes, Inc.; Stephen Freeman, Cross Cuts; Holly Hansen, Elders Eden LLC; Vevelyn Higgins, citizen; Mark Hunter, Black Male Health Community Action Team; Jason Johnson, Cross Cuts; Duntai Mathews, D.L.M. Manufacturing Inc,; Tom Moyer, DNT CAD Solutions; Jody Perrecone CHIP; James Peterson, Northwest Community Center; Alan Pirtle, citizen; Dale Sandell, citizen; Duane Sies, DNT CAD Solutions; Christine Sledge, Century 21, Country North Inc.; Judy Slocum, citizen; Craig Sockwell, citizen; Wendell Stanford, S & B Manufacturing; Jason Water, Citizen; Jason Wates, Citizen; Mary Williams, D. Closet Clothing; Willie Williams, Citizen; Bob Villanii, Rosecrance Health Network; David Gomel, Rosecrance Health Network; David Aurand, Harlem Township Supervisor; Maria Helton, Citizen; Richard Beck, United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters; Genda Shaver, Retired Teacher; Dave Argubright, Chicago; Regional Council of Carpenters-Local 145 from Ottawa; Scott Sibley, Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters; Gloria Dillard, Citizen; Toby Schroder, Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters; Jaime Sachez, Chicago; Regional Council of Carpenters; Blake Covemaker, Chicago Council of Carpenters; Karen Bieschke, VP of Rockford Ed Association; Fred Nimke, Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters; Carl J. Mc Caffrey, Local 150 IUOE; Sandra Meyer, IL Education Association; John Penney, Painters DC#30; Sue Wilson, First Step Day Care; June Nilsen, First Step Day Care; Matt Swanson, Local 32; Jennifer Alcantar, Circles of Learning; Colleen Magee, RN and Teacher, Rockford Ed Association; Tom Morgan, IEA; Michael Duffy, South Beloit CUSD#320; Dominic Costenza, Local 32 Laborers; Bob Hasting, Plumbers Pipefitters Local 23; Gordon Conover, Advisor of Rockford Day Nursery and Early Learning Center; Brad Long, Carpenters Local 792.