SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Committed to putting Illinois back on track after years of crisis, state Rep. Mark Walker, D-Arlington Heights, concluded this year’s spring legislative session Friday by backing a responsible, balanced budget that holds the line on middle class taxes while investing in education, health care, career training and critical services that families depend on.
“Although there is much more work to be done, we have taken critical steps to balance the budget, invest in a growing economy and move Illinois forward after four years of crisis,” Walker said. “I’m proud to have supported and helped pass meaningful legislation that will help restore fiscal stability and will do our state and our communities a lot of good.”
The spending plan supported by Walker invests $375 million in new funding for schools, while meeting the state’s full pension obligation and addressing more than $1 billion in old bills inherited from the budget crisis. Additionally, this year’s budget commits funding to critical services, such as Meals on Wheels and lifesaving breast cancer screenings, which were neglected during the budget impasse.
In addition to the budget, Walker worked to pass legislation aimed at building a stronger Illinois by building a stronger middle class. By fighting for the Fair Tax, affordable health care, a higher minimum wage and credits for businesses and apprenticeship programs, Walker has prioritized ensuring that the middle class and Illinois are on the path to progress.
“My commitment to strengthening the middle class means fighting for fairer taxes, building an economy that creates high-wage jobs and making health care more affordable,” Walker said. “I supported the Fair Tax amendment because middle-class families bear too much of a burden under our current system. This amendment is a crucial step toward making the wealthy pay their fair share so we can balance budgets, hold the line on middle-class taxes and provide tax relief for 95 percent of taxpayers in my community.”
In addition to supporting the Fair Tax, Walker sponsored and passed legislation creating tax credits for businesses and expanding access to apprenticeship programs.
“Illinois’ economy has a serious shortage of workers for jobs paying $35 per hour and higher. I passed Senate Bills 1591 and 1919 which expand access to career and vocational training to prepare people for high-wage jobs, and expand tax credits for employers, so we can invest in businesses that invest in Illinois,” Walker said. “I also supported Senate Bill 2024, creating a state-wide study on how best to expand apprenticeship programs in Illinois.”
Not forgetting his promises to fight for veterans, women’s rights, health care and public safety, Walker co-sponsored and supported many other bills helping his district.
“While the economy is a major issue for our state, we cannot forget the other vitally important issues concerning our communities,” Walker said. “I’m proud to have co-sponsored legislation expanding military discounts to the families of our brave men and women in uniform. Also, I helped pass programs providing more housing grants for those experiencing homelessness and supported the creation of a House Subcommittee dedicated to youth homelessness prevention.
“Just as important in my work in Springfield is standing up for women’s equality and access to health care. I’m proud to have co-sponsored legislation making it illegal for potential employers to ask about a person’s wage history, helping women better ensure they’re paid equally,” Walker said. “Additionally, I was a supporter of the Reproductive Health Act, guaranteeing women in Illinois will have access to reproductive health care no matter the threats of anti-choice opponents around the country.”
Walker also supported Senate Bill 1966, better known as “Fix the FOID.” Addressing the flaws in current policy to collect firearms after someone’s FOID card is revoked, Senate Bill 1966 strengthens law enforcement’s ability to remove firearms from violent or unstable individuals and requires documentation of all gun sales and transfers via licensed dealers.
“After the tragic shooting in Aurora, we realized that the regulations in place were not strong enough to protect against mass shootings and to keep guns out of the hands of those who should never have them,” Walker explained. “I supported Fix the FOID because I support common-sense regulations allowing for the responsible use and ownership of guns.”
Finally, while out-of-touch politicians in Washington continue to try to strip away health care, Walker fought for legislation protecting individuals with pre-existing conditions, and passed measures capping skyrocketing health insurance premiums and reining in out-of-control prescription drug costs.
“There is more work to be done including finalizing real property tax relief for those who need it most,” Walker said. “I will continue fighting to provide tax relief for the middle class, grow a high-wage economy and make health care more affordable.”