SPRINGFIELD - April 18, 2013. Lt. Governor Sheila Simon issued the following statement after the Senate Revenue Committee's unanimous passage of Senate Bill 337, which will increase transparency in government spending. Lt. Governor Simon recently announced plans for the income tax receipt, in order to illustrate where taxpayer money goes and how it fits into the state's multi-billion dollar budget.

"When you pay your credit card bill, you receive a statement detailing how your money was spent over the course of the month. Taxpayers should be able to see how their money is spent on state programs and services, such as education, pensions and prisons," Simon said. "I would like to thank Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D-Chicago Heights) for her leadership and the Senate's Revenue Committee for passing this legislation, and I am committed to giving taxpayers the tools they need to learn more about government spending."

Simon's office is working with the Department of Revenue and the Governor's Office of Management and Budget (GOMB) to design an income tax receipt, which will be introduced before the start of the next tax filing season in January and made available annually. The taxpayer receipt will be produced for the roughly 500,000 residents who file online for free, and those who file by other means will be able to access a webpage. This transparency initiative comes at no cost to the taxpayer.

Click here to view a sample receipt for a taxpayer who pays $1,000 in income taxes to the state.


SPRINGFIELD - April 17, 2013. An advocate for rural communities, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon today urged farmers' markets to join her in fighting food deserts in Illinois. Simon urged markets to apply for a federal grant to purchase wireless machines that accept debit and credit cards, and Link cards. The machines enable low-income residents to purchase fresh, locally-produced food sold at farmers' markets.

To date, 31 markets have received the Illinois Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) Wireless Project grants coordinated by Simon's office, and most of the markets will start accepting Link cards this spring. One of the newest recipients, EP!C Market, of Peoria, discussed its expansion plans during today's Governor's Rural Affairs Council (GRAC) meeting in Springfield.

"All Illinois families should have access to fresh, local foods," said Simon, who chairs the GRAC. "With so many Illinoisans currently receiving food stamp benefits, expanding Link access is good policy. I encourage markets to apply for the federal funding that is helping us bring healthy, local food to our underserved communities."

EP!C market provides employment opportunities for people with developmental disabilities. Approximately 40 individuals currently work in the greenhouse, and plants are sold at local retailers. The organization looks forward to adding an outdoor garden, doubling the number of workers. EP!C will hold its first outdoor farmers' market in May.

"We are thrilled to be a part of the Illinois EBT Wireless Project," said Vice President of Development Kristen Berchtold. "It will make EP!C market more attractive and accessible to a broad customer base, and will enable us to provide more employment opportunities and vocational training for those we serve."

Through Simon's EBT wireless project, Illinois farmers' markets receive free wireless machines that enable consumers to pay with debit and credit cards, or with Link cards. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the number of Midwestern farmers' markets accepting Link cards increased by around 65 percent between 2011 and 2012. Chicago alone saw a 56 percent increase during that period, meaning more low-income families can purchase fresh produce at farmers' markets.

Applications for the EBT wireless project are still being accepted. For more information, please click here.


As tax filing deadline nears, Simon introduces taxpayer receipt

CHICAGO - April 14, 2013. As Illinois residents prepare to meet Monday's deadline to file their taxes, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon is calling for more transparency on how income tax dollars are spent. Simon wants taxpayers who file online to receive an itemized receipt that illustrates where their money goes and how it fits into the state's multi-billion budget.

"When you buy groceries, you automatically receive a receipt outlining how your money was spent," Simon said. "Taxpayers deserve the same clear information on how the state spends their money on education, prisons and pensions."

Simon's office is working with the Department of Revenue and the Governor's Office of Management and Budget (GOMB) to design a taxpayer receipt, which will be introduced before the start of the next tax filing season in January. The taxpayer receipt will be available to the roughly 500,000 residents who file online for free, and a webpage will be available to those who file by other means.

"This new feature will give taxpayers a better understanding of how Illinois spends tax dollars on schools, public safety and the services they and their neighbors rely on," said Assistant Budget Director Abdon Pallasch.

Simon will also work with Revenue and GOMB to ensure that the receipt is created and made available annually. This transparency initiative comes at no cost to the taxpayer.

Simon's office offered a sample receipt for a taxpayer who pays $1,000 in income taxes to the state.

The illustration should help taxpayers understand the state's growing pension obligations and the strain that places on other areas such as Medicaid and the state's backlog of unpaid bills, Simon said. It also reflects the state's move toward "Budgeting for Results," a budget system that aligns spending with how effectively a service or program achieves its objectives - rather than spending being based on historical funding.

A similar taxpayer receipt has been proposed at the federal level by Congressman Mike Quigley, and the White House has operated a taxpayer calculator as shown here.


CHICAGO - Lt. Governor Simon will declare April as Sarcoidosis Awareness Month in Illinois during a visit to the Bernie Mac Sarcoidosis Translational Advanced Research (STAR) Center on Thursday. Simon will be joined by Mayor Richard M. Daley and Rhonda R. McCullough, widow of Bernie Mac and President and CEO of the Bernie Mac Foundation.

"The work of the Bernie Mac STAR Center helps promote research and awareness of Sarcoidosis as we focus efforts to decrease health disparities in the city and throughout the state," Lt. Governor Sheila Simon said. "I'm pleased to promote the organization's work by declaring April 'Sarcoidosis Awareness Month.'"

Simon serves as the honorary chairperson of the Bernie Mac Foundation and first visited the Bernie Mac STAR Center in December. The Foundation is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to raising funds for research and increasing awareness of Sarcoidosis, a disease where inflamed cells form on various organs, most frequently the skin or lungs. Mac died in 2008 from complications of Sarcoidosis.

DATE: Thursday, April 11

TIME: 10:30 a.m.

PLACE: Bernie Mac STAR Outpatient Care Center - Suite 3C, 1801 W. Taylor St., Chicago


CHICAGO - Lt. Governor Simon will be the featured speaker at the University of Chicago's Institute of Politics' "Poultry and Politics" on Wednesday. Simon will talk to students about her commitment to public service, which has led to her serving as the state's second highest-ranking official.

"Our students are the next generation of leaders," Lt. Governor Simon said. "I look forward to sharing my background with them, and hearing their perspectives on today's pressing issues."

As Lt. Governor, Simon serves as the state's point person on education reform and as an advocate for victims of domestic violence and military families. Simon will also discuss her work with the General Assembly on high-profile issues such as marriage equality and concealed carry - all over Harold's Fried Chicken, an institution on Chicago's South Side.

DATE: Wednesday, April 10

TIME: 6 p.m.

PLACE: University of Chicago's Institute of Politics, 5707 S. Woodlawn Ave., Chicago


CHICAGO - Lt. Governor Sheila Simon will rally with federal, state and local officials, and community organizations in Chicago on Tuesday to highlight the disparity in pay between men and women, as part of national Equal Pay Day. This day marks how far into 2013 a woman must work, on average, to earn as much as a man earned in 2012.

"Pay equity isn't just a women's issue, this is a family issue and an economic issue," Lt. Governor Sheila Simon said. "Our society is strengthened when women receive equal pay for equal work, and I will continue to work with advocates to ensure that pay equity is achieved."

Despite many improvements in women's economic status, employment discrimination and unfairness in the workplace are still a fact of life for too many women. Regardless of education and experience, in nearly every occupation women are still paid less than men, only 77 cents for every $1 a man earns. On average, a woman could lose up to $1.2 million in income over a lifetime due to the wage gap.

Later Tuesday afternoon, Simon will address graduates of Bethel New Life's Entrepreneurship Training Program. The program prepares individuals to open local, successful businesses to help boost Chicago's West Side. The 30 graduates comprise the program's first graduating class, and represent businesses in cleaning services, home-based childcare, home remodeling and carpentry, among others.


Tuesday, April 9

EVENT: Equal Pay Day rally

TIME: 12 p.m.

PLACE: Daley Plaza Lobby, 50 W. Washington St., Chicago


EVENT: Bethel New Life graduation

TIME: 6 p.m.

PLACE: 1140 N. Lamon St., Chicago



SPRINGFIELD - Lt. Governor Sheila Simon will convene a quarterly meeting of the Mississippi River Coordinating Council (MRCC) on Wednesday. Dr. Jim Angel, state climatologist for the Illinois State Water Survey, will present a Mississippi River depth forecast to the group, and outline the impact the drought in Western states has had on Illinois water levels.

"It is important that we take a wide-angle view at drought and our waterways," Lt. Governor Simon said. "While we continue to recover from the 2012 drought, states west of Illinois are still facing drought conditions - something we need to keep an eye on as we plan for the 2013 agricultural season."

The MRCC will also hear an update on Asian carp migration from James Garvey, director of the Fisheries and Illinois Aquaculture Center at SIU Carbondale. Garvey recently released a report identifying the need to manage the Asian carp population so the species does not invade the Great Lakes.

DATE: Wednesday, April 3

TIME: 1:30 p.m.

PLACE: State Library, Room 403/404, 300 S. Second St., Springfield


Legislators urged to consider 10 principles including constitutionality and local input, while evaluating legislation

SPARTA - April 1, 2013. Lt. Governor Sheila Simon and members of her Firearms Working Group today urged the General Assembly to use their checklist of principles when evaluating concealed carry legislation. The checklist released today was derived from meetings the group held this spring with stakeholders on all sides of the gun debate.

"Rhetoric can get in the way of common sense law-making," said Simon, a former Southern Illinois prosecutor. "This checklist cuts through the volatile language and gets at the heart of what we need to pass a concealed carry law that is constitutional and prevents needless deaths."


Lt. Governor Simon's Firearms Working Group met with gun owners and advocates, parents who lost children to gun violence, domestic violence prevention professionals, mental and public health experts, law enforcement officials and educators from urban, suburban and rural communities across the state. Recently the group talked with Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg), the sponsor of House Bill 997, which allows for concealed carry of firearms in Illinois.

Simon said the voices reflected deeply-held beliefs on an issue that is not partisan, but regional in Illinois. Both gun rights and violence prevention advocates urged the freshmen senators and representatives who comprise the Firearms Working Group to pass reasonable restrictions that balance the constitutional right to keep and bear arms with the responsibility to prevent violence.

Currently Illinois is the only state in the nation with a law that completely bans carrying concealed firearms. The law was declared unconstitutional in December by a three-member panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and Illinois now has until June to pass a law that permits people to carry concealed guns in public spaces.

Despite coming to the group with a wide variety of opinions, these members of the Firearms Working Group reached common ground on the checklist: Sen. Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake), Sen. Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park), Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-Chicago), Sen. Michael Hastings (D-Orland Hills), Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), Sen. Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield), Sen. Steve Stadelman (D-Rockford), Sen. Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago), Rep. Christian Mitchell (D-Chicago), Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch (D-Hillside), and Rep. Kathleen Willis (D-Addison).

The 10 points on the checklist are:

Constitutionality: The concealed carry law must uphold the right to keep and bear arms, consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court's interpretation of the Constitution.

Basic Qualifications: Concealed carry permits should be issued only to adult residents of Illinois who hold valid Firearms Owner Identification Cards (FOID) and do not pose a danger to themselves or others.

Funding: The concealed carry law should also create a fund made up of user fees in order to finance the concealed carry permit application and renewal process.

Permitting Authority: The Illinois State Police (ISP) should be the permitting authority for concealed carry, and the ISP should maintain a database of permits issued.

Local Input: County sheriffs and local law enforcement authorities should be allowed to provide the ISP with information about whether an applicant poses a safety risk if the applicant were allowed to carry a concealed firearm.

Background Checks: Prior to issuing concealed carry permits, comprehensive criminal background checks should be conducted along with investigations into an applicant's mental health history, record of substance abuse and history of domestic violence.

Firearm Training: Concealed carry permit applicants should be required to complete firearm safety and live fire training prior to receiving and renewing permits.

Permits: Lost, stolen or destroyed concealed carry permits should be reported to authorities in a timely manner.

Sensitive Places: Concealed firearms should be prohibited in certain public places, such as schools, which is consistent with U.S. Supreme Court guidance. Private property owners should also be able to prohibit concealed weapons on that property.

Violations: An applicant who violates the concealed carry law or makes material false statements on concealed carry permit applications should be subject to criminal penalties.

The checklist's release comes on the same day Lt. Governor Simon visited the World Shooting & Recreational Complex in Sparta to learn firsthand about safe gun operation. Please visit www.ltgov.il.gov/guns for additional information about the Firearms Working Group.


CHICAGO - Lt. Governor Sheila Simon will open the Women Business Owners Symposium at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) on Friday. The Symposium brings together more than 1,100 women business owners and innovators to network and develop strategies to continue growing their businesses.

Later Friday afternoon, Simon will honor students, staff and faculty at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) Women's Resource Center for their work in promoting social justice, equality and empowerment of girls. Among other initiatives, the Center promotes domestic violence awareness on campus and hosts workshops on women's health topics. The Center marked its fourth anniversary on campus in February.

"I was fortunate to have a strong female role model in my mother, a lawyer and legislator back when few women were either one," said Simon, a former prosecutor who handled domestic violence cases, among others. "The women I'm talking with tomorrow are leading by example - running their own businesses, working to end domestic violence and fighting for equality. Our state will be a better place if we continue to empower young women to be our future leaders."


Friday, March 29

EVENT: Women Business Owners Symposium

TIME: 1 p.m.

PLACE: UIC Forum, 701 W. Roosevelt Rd., Chicago


EVENT: Women's Resource Center Awards Ceremony

TIME: 5 p.m.

PLACE: Alice Campbell Alumni Center, 601 S. Lincoln Ave., Urbana



CARBONDALE - March 22, 2013. Lt. Governor Sheila Simon applauded the House of Representatives for passing Classrooms First Commission legislation that will make it easier for school districts to voluntarily consolidate. House Bill 2267, sponsored by Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth (D-Peoria), passed with a strong vote of 106-3 and now moves to the Senate for consideration

Simon, the state's point person on education reform, chaired the bipartisan Classrooms First Commission, which examined ways to help school districts reduce duplicative spending and improve educational offerings. The resulting legislation approved by the House would allow non-contiguous school districts to consolidate, for faster reorganizations in some qualifying districts and high school districts to tie consolidation dates to capital funding.

"It is important that school districts throughout the state have the tools they need in order to help students succeed. This legislation will put our students - not bureaucracy - first," said Simon. "I would like to thank Rep. Gordon-Booth for her leadership in moving this bill through the House, and I look forward to working with Sen. Andy Manar and members of the Senate to send this bill to the governor's desk." 

The Classrooms First Commission was comprised of P-20 stakeholders including teachers, administrators, legislators and parents, and it held public hearings across the state on school district consolidation last year. You can learn more about the commission's recommendations here.