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Governor continues traveling through Illinois to promote his plan to provide every Illinoisan with access to affordable health insurance coverage, boost funding for education, provide property tax relief and fix an unfair tax system.
Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today joined community leaders, business owners, healthcare advocates, families, and community members to rally support for his Investing in Families budget plan in Danville. The crowd of supporters gathered together at the Laura Lee Fellowship House in Danville on the last evening of the Governor's Investing in Families bus tour, a four-day tour across Illinois to promote his budget plan. The proposed budget includes the Illinois Covered plan to provide affordable and comprehensive health 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 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.
"We have a unique opportunity to fundamentally reform the way state government meets its responsibilities so that middle class and working families are at the center of what we do," said Gov. Blagojevich. "This kind of community support is exactly what we need to make the Investing in Families plan a reality. I urge all of you to contact your legislators so we can make Illinois a better place to live by making sure every family can get affordable health insurance coverage, by reducing pension debt, and increasing funding for our schools. These are attainable goals. We just need to stick together and make sure our voices are heard."
During the rally, several local elected officials and members from various business, education, religious, and community organizations spoke in support of the Governor's Investing in Families plan, including Champaign-Urbana Public Health District Administrator Vito Palazzolo, and Pastor Fredrick Cowen of New Hope, President of the Ministerial Association of Illinois.
Also rallying in support of the Governor's plan, were members from the East Central Illinois Community Action Agency – an organization that has recently made great effort in drawing support from the community for the Governor's Investing in Families Initiatives. Speaking at the rally on behalf of the organization, Dwight Lucas, CEO of the East Central Illinois Community Action Agency, voiced his support of the Governor's plan.
"The Governor's plan will have enormous benefits for the community - and certainly for business owners like me. Providing access to healthcare for all citizens and making sure our kids have the resources they need to do well in school is extremely important and will benefit all Illinoisans," said Dwight Lucas, CEO of the East Central Illinois Community Action Agency. "Having been a former school board member, I know the importance of having a new stream of funds to help with old and dilapidated school facilities. It's important for our kids to have the opportunity to be on the cutting-edge of technology. These funds will go a long way for educating our kids and keeping them healthy."
Gov. Blagojevich has received support from nearly 200 healthcare, education, business, religious, government and labor organizations from around the state since kicking off the first day of his Investing in Families Bus Tour Monday in Chicago. This past week, the Governor has traveled Illinois to promote his Fiscal Year 2008 budget plan, stopping at restaurants, businesses, schools, and rallies in communities throughout Illinois.
"We can do better and we must do better – for our future, for our children and for our grandchildren. I think everyone should get behind Governor Blagojevich's Investing in Families plan to get taxes on an equal playing field and make sure everyone in Illinois can get affordable healthcare. I don't want to see big businesses continue to pay little to no taxes, while small businesses like mine are picking up the balance – we just can't afford it," said Chuck White, Owner of Chuck White Signs & Designs. "I believe in the Governor's plan - it can do nothing but benefit us all – the people who are complaining about it, are the one's who are finding loopholes to avoid paying their fair share."
Gov. Blagojevich's FY08 budget proposal includes fundamental changes that will benefit the people of Illinois for generations to come. The Governor's Illinois Covered plan will ensure all 1.4 million uninsured adults 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.
Recently, Gov. Blagojevich's plan received support from the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Education Association. Both groups, representing thousands of teachers and school staff throughout the state, are advocating for the Helping Kids Learn plan to invest an unprecedented $10 billion in schools over the next four years – nearly three times bigger than any increase in state history. For Illinois's deteriorating schools, the plan will invest more than $1.5 billion in a capital construction plan for projects to improve and upgrade classrooms and schools. Under the plan, general state aid to schools will increase by more than $800 million next year, raising the Foundation Level by $724 to $6,058.
Highlights of the Governor's plan for FY2008 include:
o An historic Tax Fairness Plan that closes corporate loopholes and gives the middle class the relief it deserves;
o A record new investment of $10 billion in schools over the next four years – nearly three times bigger than any increase in state history – and property tax relief for homeowners across the state;
o "Illinois Covered," an affordable, reliable healthcare plan to cover the 1.4 million uninsured adults in Illinois and provide assistance to millions of middle-income families and small businesses struggling to keep up with health insurance costs;
o Addressing the state's long-time pension deficit and ensuring secure retirements for thousands of workers by leasing the Illinois Lottery and investing the proceeds toward the pension debt;
o And a Capital Budget to make important investments in schools, roads, bridges and other critical infrastructure.
Blagojevich: Madigan is sole obstacle to spending increase
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) -- Gov. Rod Blagojevich stepped up his criticism of House Speaker Michael Madigan on Tuesday, asserting that the speaker is the sole remaining obstacle to a major spending increase for schools and health care.
The governor urged Madigan to go along with a scheme to cut Republicans out of key budget decisions and approve a budget solely with Democratic votes. That would require rewriting legislation so some programs don't take effect until next year.
"If the speaker does that, we can be out of here tomorrow," Blagojevich said.
The proposal ignores the fact that even many Democrats have reservations about the governor's budget.
Blagojevich was unable to pass his health plan, which would guarantee health insurance for everyone, in the Senate earlier this year. His Senate allies have not even tried to pass his budget. And the House overwhelmingly rejected his idea of privatizing the state lottery.
Madigan, D-Chicago, defended his proposal for smaller increases in health care and education, adding that Blagojevich must acknowledge the opposition to his own plan.
"Many, many members are getting very frustrated simply because there's a lack of understanding of the severity of the problem," Madigan said.
The governor, legislative leaders and rank-and-file lawmakers met in budget negotiations for about two hours Tuesday.
Afterward, several participants described the session as tense and unproductive. Madigan said the governor nearly lost his temper at one point and "raised his voice and flailed away with his arms."
Blagojevich called the meeting "a lot of fun."
The state budget was supposed to be approved by May 31, but the Democrats who dominate state government are deeply divided. Missing that deadline gave Republicans a bigger role in the process because any legislation that takes effect right away would need a three-fifths vote to pass, rather than a simple majority.
The governor said the increases for education and health care could be designed to take effect next summer instead of immediately. That would mean Democrats could pass the plans without any Republican support.
Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, said the governor may talk about bipartisanship, but this proposal "sends a different message."