* From a Sun-Times editorial entitled “8 New Year’s wishes for Chicago and Illinois”…
2. More money for schools
For decades Illinois used a lousy formula to fund public schools, leaving districts with a lot of poor and special-needs kids with a lot less money to educate students than districts in wealthier areas. Finally, in 2017, the Legislature adopted a formula that one day could bridge the gap. But until Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Legislature come up with billions of more dollars for schools — at least $3.5 billion — the poorest children in our state will continue to be held back. Stop letting down kids, lawmakers.
3. Invest in Illinois universities
Illinois is no longer the fifth most populous state. It fell to sixth, and Pennsylvania moved up to fifth, after our state lost 33,703 more people in 2017. To stop some of the bleeding, Illinois should recommit to building up its universities, which fell into rapid decline during the budget crisis for which Gov. Rauner was largely responsible. Making our universities more economically stable will help to stem the exodus of young people leaving Illinois for schools in other states.
4. Raise the minimum wage
Chicago and some suburbs in Cook County are on their way to raising the hourly minimum wage to $13. The rest of the state lags far behind at $8.25, though that’s higher than the national hourly minimum wage of $7.25 that was set in 2009. The costs of health care, groceries and transportation keep going up, but most people in Illinois aren’t seeing their wages rise. An election year, when politicians really want to score points with working people, is the right time for Democrats and Rauner to compromise on a minimum-wage increase.
5. Fix broken property tax system
Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios must fix the secretive, complicated property tax assessment system that benefits the politically connected at the expense of other property owners. Wealthy commercial property owners and lawyers who specialize in appealing property taxes, including some who donate campaign money to Berrios and his allies, want the status quo. This system is downright awful for regular folks who own homes.
6. Repair roads and bridges
Across Illinois, bridges are decaying. Roads need work. A capital bill to improve infrastructure would put people to work and make the state more appealing to businesses. We heard rumblings about a capital bill in the fall. We’re all for it, but hold the pork please. No one needs fancy chandeliers, like the four purchased for nearly $81,000 each in an improvement project at the Capitol in 2013.
* The Question: Your own New Year’s wishes for Illinois?