2017 01 25 Collins SotSLast year, as we began 2016 without a budget, I said that I wanted to see some understanding from the governor. That he understands the effect his policies have on real people. That he understands that these aren’t just numbers, but our seniors, our students, our social service providers, our disabled family members and our young college students who need grants to fund their higher education.

2017 01 25 Northwestern students

This past Wednesday, as we heard the governor’s State of the State address, I was proud to host students from Northwestern University in Springfield. Driven, capable young people like this year's Truman Fellows, Olyvia Chinchilla, Imani Wilson, Kevin Corkran, Matthew Guzman and Kathleen Nganga, are among those who, for the past 18 months, have wondered whether the state of Illinois will ever cast aside partisan bickering and resume fulfilling its obligations. Students like these are going to be the future of Illinois, and the past two years have made them unsure whether a state that does not fund its universities is where they want to settle.2017 01 25 KathleenNganga

Governor Rauner spoke of ensuring we are competitive enough as a state to be compassionate. Kathleen pointed out that prioritizing competition can often negatively impact those who are already marginalized. And I add that to be truly competitive, we must ensure a level playing field for all. That means funding higher education and fostering opportunity for students like Kathleen and her fellow students.

As Governor Rauner tries to highlight positives, we are once again entering the year without a budget – not due to a lack of vision, but a lack of cooperation. The Senate has repeatedly put forth spending plans, and all have been rejected because the governor wishes to fight over non-budgetary concerns.

We are still working on proposals aimed at breaking this impasse and funding the services that help the people of Illinois. As we do, I hope the governor will understand that compromise means setting aside oneself for the greater good.

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Springfield ─ Yesterday, I voted in favor of SB 2822, which requires the state to give $215.2 million to the pension fund for fiscal year 2017. The importance of this bill cannot be overstated. The future of over a quarter of a million students will be affected by the passage or failure of this bill. A learning environment fraught with uncertainty is detrimental to the prospects of the children and in turn the state.

Educators are the unsung heroes of society. My love of reading and writing was ignited by passion of educators in Chicago. They inspire innovation, mentor creativity and open doors of opportunity for children.  

The advancement of our state relies on the maintenance of our education system and teachers are an integral part of it. They assist in the cultivation of young minds and push students to reach their potential. After years of public service, they deserve a reliable pension.

The needs of Chicago public school teachers have not fallen on deaf ears, but the efforts of the Illinois Senate will be in vain if the House does not follow suit in supporting the fundamental needs of educators. Educators invest in our students and we should invest in our teachers as well. As senator of the 16th District, I support this bill.

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“This Veterans Day, we salute the courageous men and women who have bravely served our country. Every day, people risk their lives to protect the freedoms that we as Americans hold dear. This holiday, let us make a concerted effort to applaud and thank our Illinois veterans, as well as, our veterans nationwide. Their service and sacrifice have sustained us as a strong and free democracy.”    

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Last November, two-thirds of Illinois' voters agreed that if you work full-time, you and your family should not live in poverty. We in the Senate heard the message loud and clear, and in December, we responded, passing the minimum wage increase I co-sponsored. Unfortunately, the House declined to vote on the measure last year, and it died. We have reintroduced the minimum wage increase in the new legislative session, and last Thursday, the Senate reaffirmed our commitment to giving relief to the working poor who have seen costs rise as their pay stagnates. Senate Bill 11 would raise the minimum wage from $8.25 now to $9 starting this July, $10 by 2017 and $11 by 2019. In contrast to the governor's call for a $10 minimum wage by 2022, our legislation will make a real, tangible impact on the lives of working families struggling to escape poverty.

The political realities are different today than they were in December 2014, and the rhetoric has been heated and divisive, but the needs of the working people of Illinois remain the same. During the debate on the Senate floor, I reminded my colleagues that the needs of the working poor and the wishes of the voters we represent ought to guide our consciences and our votes.

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Contact Info

Chicago Office:
1155 W. 79th St.
Chicago, IL 60620
(773) 224-2830

Springfield Office:
M114 Capitol
Springfield, IL 62706
(217) 782-1607

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