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Thousands of Illinoisans Reject Tax on Retirement Income
SPRINGFIELD, IL (, November 20, 2016 - With the Governor and legislators back in Springfield for veto session, thousands of Illinoisans ages 50 plus have delivered a strong message to their elected officials: a firm NO to a tax on retirement income to fix the state's ongoing budget crisis.

During a recent press conference in the Capitol, AARP officials showed over 15,000 signed petitions and immediately delivered them to the offices of Governor Bruce Rauner, House Speaker Michael Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton, Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, and House Minority Leader Jim Durkin.

"Instituting a state income tax upon retirement income in a piecemeal manner to address Illinois' fiscal mismanagement, financial woes, and political gridlock is unfair to our retirees who worked and saved for decades," said Ryan Gruenenfelder, AARP Illinois Manager for Advocacy and Outreach. "Retirees did not put the state in the current fiscal crisis. It is shortsighted to propose to balance the state's economy on the backs of retired individuals."

One year ago, AARP released a survey of individuals ages 50 and older across the state. The survey revealed an overwhelming rejection of a tax on retirement income - with nearly 90 percent opposing it.

With Illinois as the 5th worst state in the nation in terms of tax rates, a tax on retirement income would unfairly put an additional burden on retirees who are already struggling with limited incomes to afford basic necessities, including utility rates.

AARP Illinois' 2015 survey also showed that 92% of respondents believed a tax on retirement income would have a negative impact on their household budget; nearly 60% would consider moving to another state; nearly 70% would be forced to reduce their household spending; and a third would have to return to the workforce. After the survey, AARP mailed petitions to Illinois members asking them to sign on to a clear message to their elected leaders, urging them to oppose efforts to create a tax on retirement income.

"Illinoisans aged 50 plus overwhelmingly reject the idea of a tax on retirement income," Gruenenfelder added. "They know it would have major, detrimental impact on their household budgets, on their ability to care for a loved one, on their ability to prepare for and enjoy a secure retirement, and even on their ability to stay retired."

AARP is urging the Governor and the General Assembly to ensure all taxpayers are represented at the negotiating table as the state tries to figure out how to put an end to its recurring fiscal crisis. Illinois needs comprehensive reform proposals, starting with an evaluation of the current revenue system and with a look at measures that foster economic growth, include social and public policy goals, address revenue adequacy to pay for critical services, and generate equity.

"Elected officials need to break the gridlock and look at proposals that aim to make life better for all, including retirees, working families, and low-income households," Gruenenfelder concluded. "We need a comprehensive look at all taxes paid by Illinois residents and businesses, and an equitable tax reform approach to raise revenue, rather than a piecemeal approach shouldered by Illinois retirees."

River Bridge Project
(L - R) St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern, East St. Louis Mayor Emeka Jackson-Hicks and James Nations, chairman of the Southwestern Illinois Development Authority spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony for the $8.1 Million River Bridge District Project on the East St. Louis Riverfront.

Construction Begins on $8.1 Million River Bridge Project
by Bob Moore,
EAST ST. LOUIS, IL (, November 1, 2016 - Under bright blue skies, local dignitaries joined public and private stakeholders for a ceremonial tossing of the dirt near the Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park to officially begin construction on the $8.1 Million River Bridge District Project on the East St. Louis Riverfront

The River Bridge District Project involves a comprehensive $8.1 million overhaul of Front Street from Trendley Avenue in East St. Louis to where the road dead ends in Fairmont City, as well as improvements to connecting roadways. The initial phase, for which ground will be broken on Tuesday, includes the critical rebuilding and upgrading of Front Street to allow for enhanced access for the burgeoning commercial traffic generated by Cargill and Bunge-SCF along the East St. Louis Riverfront.

St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern spoke to guests about the unique public/private partnership that enabled this project to become a reality. "We believe this investment will continue to spur the robust expansion of business, leading to economic health and distribution companies" stated Kern.

East St. Louis Mayor Emeka Jackson-Hicks spoke enthusiastically about the opportunity the project provided for the city. "This city is on its way up. This project clearly delivers great enhancements to the existing businesses of Cargill, Bunge-SCF and the Casino Queen."

She highlighted that it will also improve the quality of life for residents, as well as provide jobs. She noted that the project team, under Chairman Kern's direction, has increased the minority participation goal for the project from 12% to 20%. "Hopefully, some of these jobs will bring more prosperity and experience to my citizens," stated Mayor Jackson-Hicks.

Local officials and city leaders hope that the improved infrastructure work will also create enhanced access for patrons and employees of the Casino Queen and citizens of East St. Louis, providing separation of the heavy commercial traffic from other normal public movement.

Funding for the project is coming from federal, state, county, locally based special project authorities and private sources, including $1.5 million from Southwestern Illinois Development Authority. Bungee-SFC, Cargill and Casino Queen have each committed $500,000. Additional funding is coming in the form of a $3.5 million grant from the US Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration, $500,000 from the Metro East Park and Recreation District and a $125 TARP grant from the Illinois Department of Transportation.

The project is the final piece of substantial highway infrastructure improvements already made by state and federal partners in the immediate vicinity, including the relocation of Illinois Route 3 and the opening of the new Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge.

Illinois-based Baxmeyer Construction Co. has been selected as the general contractor for the job, while engineering is being handled by TWM of Swansea. Work on Phase 1 is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2017, while Phase 2 is expected to wrap up the following year.

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