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March 19, 2007

Peoria business groups, advocate organizations, individuals endorse Governor Blagojevich's Investing in Families Initiatives
HFS Director Barry Maram accepts more than two dozen endorsements for the Governor's budget priorities

PEORIA – Illinois Health and Family Services Director Barry Maram joined more than two dozen Peoria organizations and individuals, including healthcare providers and advocates, education supporters, churches, and other nonprofit organizations, where he accepted endorsements for the Governor’s Investing in Families Initiatives, the Governor’s proposed budget for FY08. The plan includes the Illinois Covered plan to provide affordable comprehensive 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 wealthy 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.

“This year we are taking a leap towards the future,” said Governor Blagojevich. “If the General Assembly passes these initiatives, the future promises fully funded schools for our kids, affordable comprehensive health insurance for all Illinoisans, and a fair tax system. I am proud of the support Peoria small businesses and organizations have given to this plan and look forward to working with them to win legislative support.”

Businesses, local government and nonprofit organizations from the Peoria area are praising Governor Blagojevich’s forward thinking initiatives. With nearly 15% of adults in Peoria County without health insurance, many in the area believe that the Governor’s proposed Illinois Covered plan will bring much needed relief.

“As a nurse and Komen board member, I’ve seen first hand how people easily fall through the cracks of our current health care system,” Ruth Jacobs, a board member of Susan G. Komen For the Cure. “Many times, women make too much money to be eligible for assistance. Yet, they are unable to afford healthcare insurance premiums, or their employer doesn’t offer insurance. Unfortunately, the population of women who fall through the cracks is growing. They need help. And we need to help them.”

“I retired after working 26 years as a firefighter. And although my wife has Parkinson’s and Dystonia, which is a muscle disease, we were looking forward to enjoying life. But instead, we are paying $16,000 a year for health insurance. I’ve had to take up a part time job to help meet expenses. We can’t go without insurance. We’re getting by, but we’re not getting by very well. There needs to be a solution to paying so much for healthcare insurance,” said retired firefighter Mike Ewing.

Governor Blagojevich has put forth a historic budget proposal with fundamental changes that will benefit the people of Illinois for generations to come. The Governor’s Illinois Covered will ensure all 1.4 million uninsured 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.

“Over the last four years, Governor Blagojevich has helped more working families in Illinois get healthcare than ever before,” said Barry Maram, Director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. “Now is the time to build on that progress, and help every Illinoisan get access to the healthcare they deserve. It is a privilege to stand with civic leaders and advocates in Peoria in support of the Governor’s bold initiatives for working families.”

Also included in the Investing in Families Initiatives is the Governor’s Helping Kids Learn 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 $800 million, raising the Foundation Level by $724 to $6,058. With more funds per pupil, schools can make investments to improve textbook quality, modernize their technology, or invest in teachers.

Under the plan, the state will give schools additional funds increase funds to hire special educations 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 for if they invest in proven strategies that raise student achievement. For Illinois’s deteriorating schools, the plan will invest in a capital construction plan for projects so children can learn and teachers can teach in a more conducive environment.

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, Governor Blagojevich unveiled a Tax Fairness Plan in his Budget Address earlier this month.

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 tax will better reflect the changes in Illinois’ economy since the Corporate Income Tax was implemented thirty years ago when goods dominated the state’s economy. Today ‘new economy’ businesses – primarily services – represent the majority of Illinois’ business activity. In fact, goods-based businesses make up only 35 percent of Illinois’ economy, but pay 53 percent of the corporate income tax; services-based businesses make up 65 percent of Illinois’ economy, but pay only 47 percent of the corporate income tax.

The GRT will only apply to businesses that make more than $1 million each year, which means that small businesses – 75 percent of all businesses in Illinois – will be exempt. The GRT will tax service industries at a low 1.8 percent, while manufacturers, construction, retail and wholesale companies will be taxed at an even lower .5 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. By transitioning to the GRT, Illinois will rid itself from loopholes that allow major corporations to avoid paying their fair share of taxes to the state, and is expected to generate $3 billion in new revenue in fiscal year 2008, and more than $6 billion during its first full year in effect.

The Governor’s budget also addresses he State of Illinois’ increasing pension obligation – the state’s most pressing structural deficit challenge. Thirty years of under-funding the state employee pension system, combined with passing billions of dollars in unfunded pension sweeteners, has created the largest state pension debt in the nation. Governor Blagojevich laid out a landmark plan that would use the proceeds from a long-term lease the Illinois State Lottery to provide an immediate infusion of at least $10 billion into the state’s pension system. He also proposed issuing $16 billion in pension obligation bonds that will help put the system on stronger fiscal footing. Altogether, the Governor’s plan will save more than $60 billion between now and 2045.

Endorsing the Governor’s plan includes the following Peoria groups and individuals:

UAW Local 974
IBEW 197
Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House
Campaign for Better Health Care
MDC Development Corporation
Boys and Girls Club of Pekin
Church Women United of Peroia
First Dist. Solutions Group Services
George Washington Carver Association
Laborers local 362
Galesburg Cottage Hospital
New Hope International Ministries
Mt. Zion Baptist Church
T.D. McNut Ministries International Kingdom Builders Prophetic Deliverance Ministries
Heaven’s View Christian Fellowship
Latter Rain Life Changes Ministries
Susan G. Komen For the Cure
Illinois Valley Mental Health Association
Henry County Health Deparmtent
Stark County Health Department
Iroquois Mental Health Center
North Central Behavioral Health Systems
Sweet P’s Restaurant
South Side Office of Concern
Institute for Human Resources
Children’s Home and Aid Children’s Foundation
Youth Build of McLean County
Laborers Local 165
John Penn
Dave McBride
Joanne Sandy
Linda Hieronymus
Cindy Baker
Lucy Nelson
Pearl Taylor
Paul Gardner
Beth Youngblood
Betty Kinser
Nancy Gardner
Marianne Wood
Harry Wolin
Billy Halstead


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