053116CM1472Now that we have a budget for the first time in over two years, it is important to me that you truly understand how this budget came together and what is included.

To start off, it is important to keep in mind that without this budget, the State was spending at the same level we were spending at when we had a 5% income tax. We have not had a 5% income tax since January 2015, when it dropped back down to 3.75%. So, without this budget, because of court-ordered spending, Illinois would have been spending roughly $39 billion while only taking in approximately $32 billion.

Nobody wants their taxes raised, including myself. Before we considered any new revenues, we worked on cutting state spending. In the end, we cut almost $3 billion in state spending. It was only after we cut what amounts to almost 10% of spending that we looked at new revenues.

Many of those spending cuts were cuts that our Republican colleagues requested. Despite that, this budget, in many ways, was the budget the Republicans wanted. Unfortunately, the governor still told them not to vote for it.

Under the new budget, the income tax will increase from 3.75% to 4.95%. When the governor took office, he asked the General Assembly to allow the tax hike passed under Pat Quinn to go down from 5% to 3.75%. Since he has taken office, the governor has never proposed a truly balanced budget that makes up for the lost revenue. 4.95% is the figure Governor Rauner and the Republicans wanted.

Our budget even spends less than the unbalanced budget the governor proposed in February. When he proposed that budget, he endorsed the Senate's efforts in passing the "Grand Bargain" which relied on new revenues to balance the budget.

The governor has also stated that he did not sign the budget because we did not pass any reforms. We enacted pension reforms that governor asked for that will save the taxpayers' money. We passed school funding reforms which will guarantee that all public school students go to a school that is fairly funded. We passed procurement reforms that will cut red tape and save the state money. We passed local government consolidation reforms that will make it easier to decrease the number of local governments. In addition to these reforms, both the Speaker and the President of the Senate have agreed to continue working on additional reforms to continue to move Illinois forward.

Additionally, we increased funding for K-12 schools and fully funding colleges like Illinois Central College and Spoon River Community College. We fund critical human and social services like domestic violence shelters. We balance the budget and provide financial stability so we can begin rebuilding our state's credit rating which will also save us money.

I understand that most people will be upset that their taxes were increased. However, the alternative of not having a budget was simply not an option. Our state's finances could have been permanently damaged and taxpayers would have been on the hook for even more in the future. Our universities could have lost accreditation and been forced to close and many public schools could have not opened in the fall.

We finally have a budget, but we must continue working to pass reforms that will make the state competitive without hurting workers. I stand firm in my commitment to work with my Republican colleagues to move in Illinois forward and make sure we never go through this again.

Category: News

Koehler Map GrantsSenator Koehler visited with students from Peoria today who attend Western Illinois University. They were in Springfield to discuss the importance of state funding for higher education and the Monetary Award Program.

For more information on the Monetary Award Program, please click here.

Category: News

State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) visits with a vendor at the Old Capitol Farmers Market in Springfield during its opening day May 14.SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Dave Koehler's plan to make it easier for farmers and other vendors to sell their products at farmers markets throughout the state is on its way to the governor's desk.

Under Illinois' current law, local health departments set the rules for buying and selling food at farmers markets, which has resulted in a hodge-podge of conflicting regulations. Koehler's plan would allow the Illinois Department of Public Health to establish a single set of regulations for the entire state.

"Making it easier for Illinois farmers to sell their products throughout the state benefits everyone," said Koehler, a Peoria Democrat who has always been a strong supporter of farmers markets. "It gives customers more choices and opens up new markets for local growers."

For example, state law requires that all raw meat be kept under 41 degrees. However, some local health departments require that all meats be sold frozen. Some say that farmers must use mechanical refrigeration units. Others allow coolers and ice packs.

"This change would be very helpful for local growers like me," said Doug Day, owner of Spring Bay Farm in Woodford County. "It would lower our costs, both in time and money."

The legislation would also create rules for offering samples and require labels that make it easier for customers to identify where the food they buy was grown or produced.

Illinois has more than 375 farmers markets with more than 1,000 farmers and other vendors. They connect farmers and other producers directly to customers, providing locally grown and produced fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, cheeses, meats, nuts, baked goods and more.

Many now accept credit cards and debit cards, and the state has pushed to make the markets more accessible to food stamp users. Farmers markets often offer fresh produce at rates that are competitive with – or even cheaper than – grocery stores.

Category: News

koehler75x75SPRINGFIELD –State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) is refusing his food and lodging reimbursement for Wednesday's special session of the General Assembly.

Koehler has a long history of refusing to take extra compensation at a time when the state is struggling to pay its bills. He has voted to cut his own pay by nearly five percent for the past four years and donated his food and lodging compensation to charity when former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Gov. Pat Quinn called special sessions.

"This special session is ultimately about the state budget," Koehler said. "Legislators need to lead by example and show that we are willing to make the same sacrifices that so many families across Illinois have already made to cope with the tough economy."

Category: News

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Contact Info

Springfield Office:
M113 Capitol Building
Springfield, IL 62706
(217) 782-8250

Peoria Office:
400 NE Jefferson, Suite 200
Peoria, IL 61603
(309) 677-0120