SPRINGFIELD — Gov. JB Pritzker’s first budget proposal takes a creative and aggressive approach to tackling the state’s financial problems while also investing in future opportunities for public school children and offering today’s working families a helping hand. Illinois Senate President John J. Cullerton issued the following statement after the governor’s speech.

“I give the governor credit for offering specifics. His plan is filled with ideas — real, doable, constitutional ideas. Now, whether or not they happen remains to be seen. That’s what the legislative process is for. But I commend Governor Pritzker for stepping forward today and presenting specifics. It’s a heck of a lot better than an empty “$4.6 billion by working together” line we saw in past years.

This is a budget that’s about restoring stability and functionality to state government. That’s what we need to build for the future.

Does it solve all of our problems? No. But it’s a vital step in the right direction.

There’s increased school funding. That means more resources for local public schools everywhere in Illinois, and that means more opportunities for our children.

There’s additional support for working families. You see it with the increased funding for child care assistance. Under this plan, a family of four making $50,000 would qualify for help with child care costs.

There’s more financial aid for college students.

The Chicago Veterans Home – a modern care facility for our veterans – would finally open.

I give the governor credit for being creative, aggressive and specific in his budget, and I look forward to working with him to bring it to reality.”

SPRINGFIELD —Backed by growing support across the state, Illinois Senate President John Cullerton is making good on his promise to raise the legal age to buy cigarettes and other tobacco products to 21.

“This is not a complicated issue. It would be the law already if not for former Governor Rauner. Now, with a new governor, I’m confident that we can get this public health improvement to his desk and have it signed into law,” Cullerton said Tuesday at a Capitol news conference.

Cullerton has long been a public health advocate and key supporter of Tobacco 21 legislation currently sponsored by Sen. Julie Morrison, a suburban Deerfield Democrat. The proposal raises the legal age to buy tobacco to 21 from 18.

The key issue, Cullerton said, is preventing young adults from buying cigarettes for younger teenagers, who then become addicted and face a lifetime of increased health problems.

Cullerton and Morrison led efforts last year to pass similar legislation only to have then-Gov. Bruce Rauner veto it. At the time, Cullerton vowed to override the veto and if that didn’t work, refile the proposal in 2019. The Senate did override Rauner’s veto, but the House was unable to muster the votes.

Senate Bill 21 was recently filed and mirrors last year’s proposal. The Senate’s Public Health Committee is expected to debate it Tuesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, across Illinois, several communities —most notably Chicago — raced ahead of the state on this issue to protect children’s health. Mayor Rahm Emanuel is among those calling for the state to take action. City public health officials are expected to testify in support of Tobacco 21 during Tuesday’s Senate hearing.

“We’ve seen this work in Chicago. I want to thank Mayor Emanuel for his work to not only improve public health in the city but to support our efforts here to do the same statewide,” Cullerton said. “It’s time for the state to step up and protect our children from this known danger.”

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois Senate President John Cullerton signaled his support Wednesday for Gov. JB Pritzker’s efforts to make sure the state’s workforce training programs are putting people to work and identifying new jobs and industries for Illinois’ future.

“We have a tremendous opportunity to put people to work. I applaud the governor for recognizing the opportunity and moving quickly to do something about it,” said Cullerton.

On Wednesday, Gov. Pritzker gave his agencies a 90-day deadline to come up with ways for the state to better align workforce development programs and funding with actual employers’ needs and emerging industries, such as renewable, green energy jobs.

President Cullerton recently highlighted in his inaugural address the success of a Richland Community College program that dramatically increased employment for construction trades and industrial training students. Success came after school leaders met with local employers, identified what they needed from potential workers and adjusted the curriculum to address specific needs.

Cullerton has called for expanding the program statewide and including renewable energy industries.

Pritzker’s executive order is a key step forward for those shared goals.

This focus on putting people to work comes as nearly half of the 580,000 manufacturing workers in Illinois are expected to retire over the next decade. Meanwhile, health care, transportation and other industries are also in need of reliable, skilled workers.

“The path to a better Illinois comes from putting people to work. That the governor is making this a priority once again shows that it is a new day in Illinois,” Cullerton said.