AVON – On the second day of his “Investing in Families” bus tour, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich visited the Buchen family farm in Avon to talk about how his ambitious budget proposal will benefit small businesses and farmers. Mary Jane and Phil Buchen have spent their entire lives living on their 700-acre farm that has been in the family since the 1860s, and they raised seven children there. Mary Jane and Phil have health insurance through Medicare, but their son, Denis Buchen, is one of the millions of Illinoisans struggling to pay the high costs of health insurance. Denis lives just down the street and works on the family farm. He currently spends 20 percent of his income to pay for insurance coverage for himself and his 19-year-old daughter.
“Farmers like the Buchens work to put food on our tables, they are growing the corn and soybeans that fuel our cars, and they deserve access to quality, affordable healthcare,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “In Illinois we are leading the nation in providing access to healthcare for everyone. I am proud to introduce a plan that will make sure that the hardworking people of Illinois – the small business owners, farmers, and anyone struggling under the costs of their current health insurance – will have access to quality, affordable healthcare.”
“I think all self-employed farmers need health insurance,” said Denis Buchen. “We need health insurance for ourselves, and we need it for our children. I’m for any type of health insurance that is affordable and dependable.”
On Monday Gov. Blagojevich left Chicago on his four-day Investing in Families bus tour during which he has been promoting his budget plans for Fiscal Year 2008. The tour has included stops all over Illinois where the Governor has talked with working families and small business owners about Illinois Covered, his plan to expand access to quality, affordable healthcare to all Illinoisans and Helping Kids Learn, his plan to invest an historic $10 billion into Illinois schools. He has also visited small business owners to discuss Tax Fairness, a plan to make wealthy businesses pay their fare share instead of burdening working families.
Under Illinois Covered, Denis could get a policy that would cover both himself and his daughter while paying $2,000 less than he pays for coverage now. The plan would benefit his parents also because, should they decide to expand their business and hire any additional employees, their new workers could get affordable coverage through Illinois Covered Choice.
For family farmers like the Buchens, the Illinois Covered plan will make it affordable to provide health insurance for their family. The primary components of Gov. Blagojevich’s Illinois Covered plan include:
- Illinois Covered Choice: Creates a new, affordable comprehensive insurance plan that anyone without employer-sponsored health insurance in Illinois can purchase. This statewide pool of coverage will offer Illinoisans lower and stable rates. Business groups will be able to connect many of their members with this new affordable insurance, and small business owners can also purchase this product on behalf of their employees.
- Illinois Covered Rebate: Lowers premiums for moderate to middle-income Illinoisans ($20,000-$80,000 for a family of four) to help them afford their health insurance. The rebate will vary based on income, and those with lower incomes would get a larger rebate.
- Illinois Covered Assist: Similar to FamilyCare and Medicaid, individuals or couples who are very low-income will now have access to full coverage through the state (individuals currently making less than $10,210 annually, and couples making less than $13,690).
Also included in the Governor’s budget proposal is the Helping Kids Learn plan, 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 more than $800 million, raising the Foundation Level for each student by $724 to $6,058. With more funds per pupil, schools can improve textbook quality, modernize their technology, or invest in teachers. The plan also will increase funds to hire special education 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 if they invest in proven strategies that raise student achievement. And funds will also be invested in a capital construction plan to replace or rebuild deteriorating schools.
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 last month.
Many large corporations pay little or nothing in corporate income taxes, and they are not paying their fair share to meet the state’s ongoing infrastructure, education, healthcare and public safety needs. Gov. Blagojevich’s plan takes historic steps to change the Illinois tax structure – one of the most regressive and unfair to working families in the nation. According to the Illinois Department of Revenue, 37 of the 99 ‘Fortune 100’ companies that filed taxes in Illinois paid no state income taxes, despite the fact that they averaged $1.2 billion in sales during 2004. On average, 48 percent of corporations that generated $50 million or more in annual sales in Illinois paid no income taxes from 1997 through 2004.
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 GRT will only apply to businesses that make more than $2 million each year, which means 85 percent of all businesses in Illinois will be exempt. The GRT will tax service industries at a low 1.95 percent rate, while manufacturers, construction, retail and wholesale companies will be taxed at an even lower .85 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.
Under the Governor’s plan, large corporations that pay little or no state taxes now – many of which can afford luxuries like multi-million dollar bonuses for top executives, private jet service, and huge entertainment budgets – will finally pay their fair share so children can get a better education, homeowners can enjoy property tax relief and small business owners like the Buchens can afford health coverage.