Local Legislators Address Constituents’ Budget Concerns
Champaign-Urbana community members gathered yesterday at the Carpenters Hall in Champaign for a town hall with State Senator Scott Bennett and State Representative Carol Ammons. The Democrats answered questions from constituents about the state budget that Governor Rauner signed into law this week.
K-12 education was one of the topics Ammons and Bennett discussed. Ammons, an Urbana Democrat, said state legislature compromised when raised entry-level teacher salaries and dropped maximum raises for teachers near retirement from 6% to 3%.
"We need to address our revenue issues so that we don't have to do it on the backs of teachers, we don't have to choose whether you get a pension or a frontline salary,” Ammons said.
Ammons supports a progressive income tax that would tax higher income earners at a higher rate to raise more revenue for the state. That would require an amendment to the state constitution.
Illinois school districts often raise the salaries of teachers nearing retirement to increase post-retirement pensions. Under the new budget signed into law this week, school districts will pay penalties if they raise a retiring teacher’s salary by more than 3 percent.
Another audience member asked about funding for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. That agency's funding will be cut by $1.2 million in the new state budget. Bennett, a Democrat from Champaign, said a department head from DNR told lawmakers they could operate without that money.
“So none of these things were draconian or based on throwing a dart at the wall it was based on what the directors told us they wanted, but it’s troubling to me as well,” Bennett said.
Illinois DNR operates state parks and recreation areas, enforces fishing and hunting laws, and oversees research of the state’s natural resources, among other duties.
The two legislators took questions for about 90 minutes during the Wednesday evening event.