We believe that progress toward economic and racial justice can happen at the state level.
In our home state of Illinois, we're advancing justice and opportunity through both defensive and offensive policy advocacy. Among the bills we’re championing this legislative session:
Ensuring Fair and Just Fiscal Policies.We need fiscal policies that ensure all of our communities in Illinois thrive. But unfortunately, Illinois’s regressive, unfair tax system and recent record-long budget crisis have devastated the state, harming most the millions of Illinoisans living in or on the brink of poverty. The bipartisan budget that the General Assembly passed last summer was a vital step to staunch the bleeding and get the state back on the right track, but Illinois desperately needs a long-term solution—and it needs it now.
The Fair Tax Now campaign does just that. By amending the State Constitution to allow for higher incomes to pay higher income tax rates while middle class and middle class residents pay lower rates, a Fair Tax would help raise the revenue needed to stabilize our state’s finances, repair the damage produced by the budget impasse, and make smart investments in our state’s collective future.
Protecting Our Healthcare.Everyone should have access to high quality, affordable healthcare. In Illinois and all throughout the country, the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid have helped ensure that tens of millions of people get the healthcare they need to lead healthy lives. Unfortunately, the Trump Administration has begun encouraging state governments to reduce access to care through harmful and counterproductive waivers of federal law, including adding administrative barriers dressed up as “work requirements” for Medicaid eligibility.
The Protect Our Care Bill would require the Illinois General Assembly to approve any waivers proposed by the Governor's office that would affect coverage under the ACA or Medicaid, ensuring any attempts to restrict access to healthcare are open to public debate and scrutiny.
Advancing Pay Equity for Working Women.Women deserve equal pay for equal work. Yet in Illinois, women, on average, are paid just 79 cents for every dollar white men earn. The gap is even worse for Black and Latino women, who make just 63% and 48% respectively of what white, non-Hispanic men do. Nationwide, the gender wage gap pushes millions of working women and their families into poverty each year.
HB 4163, the No Salary History Bill, strengthens the Illinois Equal Pay Act to prevent employers from asking job applicants about their previous salary history. Since women earn less than men on average, basing future wages on a worker’s previous pay only perpetuates inequality. By eliminating the ability of employers to pay women less than men because of a woman’s prior, unfairly low wages, the No Salary History Bill will play a key role in the fight to ensure equal pay for Illinois working women.
Protecting the Rights and Safety of Students.School should be a safe place where our kids learn and grow—not catch a criminal record. But unfortunately, too many of our nation’s schools serve as pipelines into the criminal justice system, particularly for low-income students and students of color. As our recent report, Handcuffs in Hallways, shows, police stationed in Chicago Public Schools operate with little oversight and training, disrupting children’s learning environment, jeopardizing their civil rights, and ultimately leaving them at risk of being swept into the criminal justice system.
If police officers are to be stationed in our schools, they should at least be trained so that schools remain safe for students, teachers, and families. SB 2925—the Safe Students, Trained Officers Bill—would require that all School Resources Officers (or police officers permanently stationed in schools) throughout the State of Illinois undergo formal training—a crucial step towards ensuring that our schools open up opportunities for children, and don’t put them behind bars.
Curbing Deep Poverty.Every family should be able to meet their basic needs. The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF) provides direct cash assistance to thousands of low-income families in Illinois. But in recent decades, the value of the TANF grant in Illinois has fallen dramatically, leaving millions of families in abject poverty, with annual incomes of less than one quarter of the federal poverty level (FPL). Research is clear that deep poverty poses serious threats to the short- and long-term well-being of children, including impaired brain development.
The Illinois TANF grant is currently about 25% of the FPL, and has only been increased twice over the past 20 years. Recognizing the growing and urgent need to address deep poverty, HB 5135 and SB 3115—Creating Opportunity for Illinoisans in Need (COIN) Act—would increase the value of the TANF grant in Illinois to 50% of the FPL over 3 years, index the grant to the cost of living, and equalize the value of the grant across the state. Above all, the COIN Act will help low-income families in Illinois meet their basic needs and pursue economic security.
Multi-State Advocacy.With partners in our national networks in states across the country, we are:
- Working to ensure immigrant communities can access public benefits and services and not have their status compromised for doing so;
- Advancing education equity and preserving and strengthening public schools;
- Ensuring the fair housing rights of people with criminal records.