Floor pic budget webYesterday, I voted against budget reductions Governor Rauner proposed - cuts that would decimate core state functions including higher education, Medicaid, child care assistance for low-income working parents, breast and cervical cancer screenings and after-school programs for youth at risk of becoming perpetrators or victims of violence.

Instead, I was proud to support a budget Senate Democrats have introduced to fully fund many essential services and meet the state's obligations to retirees, residents with disabilities, students in need of financial assistance and wards of the state.

As I advocate for you, I view every proposed budget as a moral document that spells out the true priorities of those who support it. Today, I was honored to stand with a majority of the Senate in affirming our priorities: empowering working families, caring for the most vulnerable and breaking the cycle of poverty through education and opportunity.

At the same time, we rejected the governor's priorities: corporate privileges, lower wages and leaving behind the least of these.

In February, the governor introduced a budget that would have

• eliminated anti-violence programs such as CeaseFire and Teen Reach

• slashed funding for colleges and universities by one-third

• limited access to cancer screenings and treatment for low-income women

• terminated dental benefits for adult Medicaid clients

• ended child care subsidies for children as young as six and those cared for by relatives

• left 4,000 children with disabilities without the early intervention services they need to start school prepared

Gov. Rauner asked legislators to approve these catastrophic cuts and many, many more. But without even waiting for the legislature's approval, he suspended grants that had already been awarded to youth employment programs and cut funding from autism services and other programs Illinois residents rely on to live independently.

My colleagues and I took a stand, because these are not mere numbers on a piece of paper; they are human lives. This process is far from over, but I will continue fighting to prioritize people, not profits.

I will continue to update you on this developing situation in Springfield, and I invite you to call or email me with any concerns or ideas you may have.

Twelve years in the Illinois Senate have taught me that even people who disagree strongly can work together effectively. All that is required is a basic level of trust.

When the General Assembly passed a compromise plan to revive vital programs and services, such as child care assistance, that had run out of money, many legislators believed Governor Rauner could be trusted to work with us to meet immediate needs, even as we continued to negotiate next year's budget. I voted against the short-term solution because I did not trust the Rauner administration to equitably distribute funding cuts or hold off on further cuts until we reached a consensus on where to go from here. I hoped to be proven wrong.

Yet the new administration demonstrated just one week later - on Good Friday - that it would not act in good faith to protect vulnerable Illinoisans. Gov. Rauner announced last week the indefinite suspension of $26 million in funding for social services, including ones the recent legislation had exempted from cuts. These are life-changing losses for those who can least afford them: individuals with autism and epilepsy, people with HIV and AIDS, at-risk teens, recent immigrants and many more. The governor even ordered a stop to state-funded burials of those who die in poverty.

Days later, he revealed that corporate tax incentives worth $100 million had been released to recipients, while social service agencies shut down and "the least of these" languish.

Any bond of trust that once existed between the new governor and those who rely on state assistance and their advocates has unraveled. The role of government is to create policies that are wise and just. Where is the wisdom and justice in these callous cuts?

As your voice in Springfield, I will continue to ask tough questions and fight to fund the resources the people of the 16th District and all of Illinois need. Please do not hesitate to contact me with your thoughts and questions.

Chart of grants suspended

"Where is the compassion? And how can the next generation hope to compete?"

BlackLatinoCaucus SOTS media avail youth employment webSPRINGFIELD — Immediately following today's State of the State address, State Senators Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-Chicago 16th) and Iris Y. Martinez (D-Chicago 20th) stood with a group of their House and Senate colleagues to highlight the urgent need for youth employment programs stripped of state funding last week. The legislators, members of the House and Senate Black and Latino Caucuses, challenged the governor to square his actions with his rhetoric.

"In today's speech, we heard about opportunities for disadvantaged communities," Collins said. "But what we've seen so far is those opportunities denied. Let's move beyond rhetoric to solutions."

"Youth and after school programs are critically important for keeping young Latinos healthy and safe, and I am committed to ensuring that these programs are funded in the future," Martinez said. "The governor ran on a platform of making Illinois a more 'competitive and compassionate' state, but his administration's decision to rescind grants for youth programs is troubling and inconsistent with his campaign's theme."

More than 30 Chicago-area agencies providing youth employment and afterschool programming were informed last week that they were no longer allowed to spend state funds they were awarded in December as part of the Department of Human Services' Youth Development Grant program. Their state contracts took effect January 1. The decision froze nearly $8 million in funds that had already been budgeted for afterschool and summer programs, mentoring, job training and job opportunities for young people, particularly in low-income and high-crime neighborhoods.

"You tell us you want Illinois to become the most competitive and compassionate state in the nation," said Collins, who also invited Rauner to visit her district and view the impact of his decision. "We are asking you – where is the compassion? And without mentoring, job training and a chance to work, how can the next generation of low-income minority youth hope to compete?"


13th Amendment floor 2 webOne hundred and fifty years ago this week, members of the 24th Illinois General Assembly made Illinois the first state to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery in the United States. Today, I stood - the great-granddaughter of a slave and a member of the 99th General Assembly - to recognize our predecessors' courage and the significance of the Thirteenth Amendment in driving the freedom train farther down history's long track. Following a moving ceremony commemorating the ratification vote, the Senate adopted a resolution I sponsored to designate February of 2015 as Thirteenth Amendment Ratification Month in Illinois.

Here are the remarks I gave in presenting the resolution.

Read more: 150 years ago, one courageous vote


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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