College access, paid sick leave, living wage will help Illinoisans get ahead
SPRINGFIELD, IL â€“ Illinois students could have the opportunity to attend community college for up to two years tuition-free, workers would be guaranteed paid sick time and a gradual increase in the minimum wage would help working families get a foothold in tough times under a legislative agenda many Senate Democrats are rallying behind as negotiations with Governor Rauner have stalled.
â€œIâ€™m concerned that the priorities of the middle class and families struggling to get by have been neglected as the rhetoric at the Capitol has heated up,â€ Illinois State Senator Kwame Raoul said. â€œThese initiatives are basic ingredients of a more competitive, compassionate Illinois: education access, workplace protections, a living wage and tax reforms so working families arenâ€™t forced to shoulder more than their share.â€
The agenda contains five key provisions:
Â·Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Illinois College Promise Program (SB 2146): Covers tuition and mandatory fees for up to two years at any of the stateâ€™s 48 community colleges as long as the student continues to meet all applicable eligibility requirements.
Â·Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Healthy Workplace Act (SB 2147): Guarantees up to seven paid days of sick time to full and part time employees.Â Sick time would accrue at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked. Employees would not be able to take sick time for the first 120 days of employment.
Â·Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Tuition Tax Credit (SB 2149): Qualifying parents or students who are Illinois residents can claim a tax credit for higher education expenses incurred at any eligible public or private university, community college, vocational school or other postsecondary educational institution located in Illinois.
Â·Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Corporate loopholes (SB 2148): Ends a variety of corporate tax loopholes, including automatic tax breaks for production outside Illinois. Ending these corporate giveaways will bring the state $334 million in additional revenue.
Â·Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Minimum wage (SB 2145): Increases the state minimum wage to $9 per hour on July 1, 2015 and by $0.50 each subsequent year until the minimum wage reaches $11 on July 1, 2019. Provides a three-year tax credit for employers with fewer than 50 employees.
â€œThis is an ambitious agenda but one that is profoundly commonsense, extending opportunities to our hard-working residents trying to improve their standard of living and give back to their communities,â€ Raoul said. â€œIllinoisâ€™ most successful reforms rarely come about without a commitment to cooperation â€” something our law enforcement reform package shows we can still muster â€” and I hope we can join together to help the people we represent get ahead and stay ahead.â€
The introduction of this agenda, embodying longtime core concerns of many Senate Democrats, comes as Gov. Rauner threatens to shut down state government unless lawmakers erode legal protections for workers and their families and slash billions of dollars in essential services to seniors, at-risk youth and the stateâ€™s most vulnerable residents.
The economic plan, which Raoul will co-sponsor, was filed at the Capitol today and could be in final form for possible votes should lawmakers be called back into session this summer.