Gov. Bruce Rauner laid out his Fiscal Year 2019 budget plan last week to the General Assembly during his annual budget address. Most notably, the plan, presented in a joint session on Feb. 14, was balanced and included several cost-saving reforms. In addition, Senator Weaver joined the Illinois Community College Board to deliver a new, five-year strategic plan aimed at improving adult education.
In other news, the voter registration deadline is approaching for the upcoming primary election.
Governor delivers annual budget address
Spending cuts, pension reform, and prioritizing education are a few items that make up the Governor’s balanced budget, which he presented to the General Assembly Feb. 14 during his annual budget address.
Calling on lawmakers to abandon the status quo of an unbalanced budget and overspending, the Governor offered a budget proposal that ensures spending does not exceed projected revenues, while holding the line on taxes. Senate Republican lawmakers said they were not only encouraged the Governor presented a balanced budget, but also emphasized the framework does not rely on a single tax increase.
Notably, the plan continues to increase funding for Illinois K-12 schools, which is a cause the Governor has pushed every year; the budget proposes $350 million for the new school funding formula. The budget framework also dedicates resources to combat crime and the opioid crisis, directs $50 million for infrastructure improvements at the Quincy Veterans Home, and provides assistance for some of Illinois’ most vulnerable residents, while implementing reforms that would ease the financial burden on Illinois taxpayers.
“Put simply, the Governor provided us with a balanced proposal that will serve as a starting point for the budget process to move forward. His plan also offers a realistic glimpse at the types of choices that will have to be made to get the state spending within its means. Not everyone will be happy with the plan, and not everyone is going to agree with every component of the proposal, including myself. But we now have a framework to begin negotiations on," said Senator Weaver.
“However the process moves forward, we have to continue our commitment to funding our schools. Our schools are absolutely vital to the future of this state. We can’t expect families to remain here nor for our students to have successful careers if our schools don’t have the necessary resources to provide an adequate education," added Weaver. “We also have to make sure that any plan that moves forward gets the state spending within its means, which hasn't happened in years, and we have to make sure we do it without asking the families of this state to give up any more of their hard-earned cash. I am optimistic that the General Assembly can work together in good faith to pass a balanced budget during the spring regular session.”
With the Governor’s proposal in hand, the Legislature can now begin what Senate Republican lawmakers hope is a bipartisan process of negotiating and advancing a budget that will help stimulate the economy, grow jobs and continue providing record funding for education.
Local education professionals help Weaver advance strategic education plan
The Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) has unveiled a new strategic plan to prepare the workforce for jobs, now and in the future, that will demand advanced skills and training.
“We all agree more jobs in Illinois will solve a lot of problems. At the same time, we have job openings right now that aren't being filled because the education and training of many applicants doesn't match the needs of the employers," said Weaver. “This strategic plan offers a way to bridge that gap and properly equip our workforce for the stable, good-paying jobs that are available, while enabling our businesses to expand and grow our economy.”
The plan was the end result of a statewide task force including Senator Weaver, who reached out to local education professionals for expert guidance.
“The meeting convened by Senator Weaver gave adult education providers in this region a much appreciated opportunity to develop informed feedback to the Illinois Community College Board on the new strategic plan,” said Glenda Nicke, Blackhawk College Dean of Adult and Continuing Education. “We were able to discuss both the opportunities and the challenges that this new plan will have on the delivery of services in our region.”
The five-year strategic plan is focused on preparing individuals for careers that will require education and training beyond high school, but not necessarily a four-year college degree. The plan will help guide the state’s adult education system over the next five years, to provide workforce training programs that will result in a credential and meet employers’ needs. The plan has four goals:
1. Improve outcomes by scaling effective models and strategies across the system.
2. Increase postsecondary transitions and credential attainment.
3. Strengthen college and career readiness.
4. Develop life-long career pathway systems and enabling technologies.
To help guide his work on the task force, Senator Weaver formed his own panel of education experts from within his senate district to ensure that the final results would meet the needs of the potential employees and employers who live in the area. The panel included Dr. Lori Sundberg, President of Carl Sandburg College, Glenda Nicke, Blackhawk College Dean of Adult and Continuing Education, Kay Sutton, Dean of College and Career Readiness at Illinois Central College, Jodi Scott, Regional Superintendent of Schools (ROE #33), along with several other education professionals and leaders from the 37th Senate District.
“I was very pleased Senator Weaver included me in the regional taskforce charged with reviewing the new Adult Education Strategic Priorities,” said Dr. Lori Sundberg, President of Carl Sandburg College. More importantly, I appreciated Senator Weaver’s willingness to hear our opinions and concerns before moving forward. That doesn’t happen every day and it was most appreciated.”
“I appreciated the fact that Senator Weaver was on the statewide task force and that he gave us the opportunity to provide some feedback on our programs,” said Kay Sutton, Dean of College and Career Readiness at Illinois Central College.
“The Regional Office of Education #33 was honored to be a part of the opportunity to give Senator Weaver feedback for the adult education task force as they developed there strategic plan,” said Jodi Scott, Regional Superintendent of Schools (ROE #33). “ROE #33 provides adult education services to our region, and as a provider of adult education, it is important to have the opportunity to give feedback as we work to support our community. We want to thank Senator Weaver for reaching out and hearing the voices of the field.”
Republican lawmakers file ‘bump stock’ ban legislation
Several Senate Republican lawmakers are sponsoring legislation that would make it illegal in the state of Illinois to sell, purchase or possess bump stocks—a device attachment for a semiautomatic rifle that allows it to fire faster, operating similarly to a fully automatic rifle.
The sale and usage of bump stocks have recently come under scrutiny after several of the attachments were found at the scene of the national tragedy in Las Vegas last October, which resulted in more than 50 fatalities and hundreds injured.
Sponsors of Senate Bill 2247 say the bill gives consideration to both the safety of the public and the interests of gun owners. By targeting bump stocks, supports say the legislation does not limit gun owners, whose rights to common lawful trigger modifications would not be affected.
Senate Bill 2247 has not yet been given a public hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where the bill has been assigned.
Voter registration deadline approaching
Illinois residents looking to vote in the March 20 primary election need to be registered by Feb. 20, which is the end of the regular registration period. This deadline also applies to those people who need to change their names or addresses.
If residents miss the deadline, it’s not their last opportunity to register. Illinois now offers a grace period. Although the traditional voter registration period closes 28 days prior to the election, grace period registration extends that deadline up to Election Day. However, grace period registration is only available in-person at designated sites and requires individuals to vote at the same time they register.
The State Board of Elections encourages individuals to check with their local election authorities to determine locations and hours available for grace period registration/voting.
For more information on how to vote in the upcoming election, click here.