Recently, Senate Democrats declared that we wouldn't tolerate massive cuts to education. To that end, I pledged that we would only advance a budget plan that holds General State Aid payments to schools and early childhood programs at current levels.

Our caucus also maintains a serious commitment to stabilizing the state budget through tax reform. However, our recognition of the need for additional revenue doesn't negate the need for significant cuts to state government.

The budget that we passed last night accomplished two principle goals. First, we followed through on our pledge to restore the education funding that was cut in Governor Pat Quinn's budget. Secondly, we demonstrated our commitment to spending cuts by reducing state bureaucracy by 5 percent across the board.

There is still a tremendous amount of work to do as we debate possible revenue streams to restore stability in our state government. In the short term, I implore the House or Representatives to pass the cigarette tax (SB 44) to avoid a reduction in mandated categorical spending for education. We must also demonstrate our commitment to fully funding our pension systems.

I look forward to working with all caucuses to solve these issues this week and to develop long term revenue solutions that go beyond the temporary fixes that we are facing today.