Legislature reinstates some of Pritzker’s proposed cuts to Illinois budget
Gov. JB Pritzker defended the $ 43.2 billion state budget bill passed by the General Assembly late Monday and early Tuesday amid complaints from Republicans that the spending plan was irresponsible.
The Democratic governor said at an afternoon press conference on Tuesday that the Democratic-controlled legislature had adopted “a truly balanced budget … for the third year in a row.”
Pritzker pledged to sign the budget bill directed to his office. He said the spending priorities he shared with Democratic leaders in the Illinois House and Senate resulted in a budget “that demonstrates that fiscal responsibility works with a progressive view of governance.”
Pritzker praised the legislature for the violence prevention, affordable housing and youth employment initiatives in the budget.
“These are historic investments that have never been made in Illinois before, investments in real solutions – and these are essential steps in our efforts to address the root causes of the violence,” said Pritzker.
The governor fended off Republican criticism of Democrats’ refusal to reinstate the nine corporate tax breaks that Pritzker initially targeted for elimination to help deal with declining state revenues linked to the COVID pandemic -19.
A recent increase in expected earnings during Illinois’ economic recovery has allowed Democratic leaders to reinstate many but not all of the breaks. Pritzker said more than $ 660 million in annual savings expected by eliminating most breaks will reduce what’s known as the state’s “structural” deficit.
The governor said the budget plan “responds to the historic structural deficit and makes responsible choices: pay down debt early, almost eliminate our backlog of bills, and make essential investments to spur economic growth, jobs and opportunities for our people. “.
Pritzker said Republicans wanted to use the one-time US federal bailout money “to kick the ‘can’ budget down the road and give favor to wealthy business interests. Instead, these dollars should be used to bring real relief to working families and to stimulate economic recovery and safety in our communities.
“In contrast, we Democrats are investing in priorities that will develop and revitalize our economy, dramatically improve our fiscal outlook and reduce tax expenditures for the wealthiest companies,” Pritzker said. “It is the Democrats who are putting the state’s public finances in order.”
The General Revenue Fund budget bill for fiscal year 2022 includes $ 1.5 billion in federal stimulus funding. It is fully funding a recommended $ 350 million increase in the school aid formula that Pritzker offered to forgo in February when the state’s revenue situation was less certain.
The spending plan contains no tax increases and avoids a 10% cut suggested by Pritzker earlier this year in the share of state income tax returned to municipalities and transit districts during the fiscal year which begins on July 1.
The budget would repay the remaining $ 2 billion of the $ 3.2 billion Illinois borrowed from the federal government to shore up the state’s finances during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Senate Bill 2800 would adopt a balanced budget and avoid a previously projected $ 1.3 billion budget deficit, according to Majority Leader Greg Harris, D-Chicago.
Senator Elgie Sims Jr., D-Chicago, said on the Senate floor at 2:10 am, before the Senate voted on the plan: “This budget has turned out to be better than we could have imagined. .
The Senate vote 37-21 did not include any supporting Republican votes. The previous House vote of 72 to 44 was also not. A Republican House legislator voted “present”.
Democrats’ upbeat depiction of the state’s fiscal position in the House and Senate ended in partisan acrimony ahead of the votes.
Republicans said they were virtually excluded from negotiations that resulted in more than 3,900 pages of Democrats-produced budget documents. The final proposal became public with just a few hours’ notice Monday night and Tuesday morning.
Harris told a House committee meeting that an additional $ 1 billion in state funding from the US bailout would be used in the budget for infrastructure projects suggested by the U.S. legislators.
Almost $ 6 billion of the $ 8.4 billion the state will receive under federal law has yet to be allocated over the next four years.
Pritzker said the billion-dollar projects “kick-start critical projects in our Illinois reconstruction plans, accelerating much-needed improvements – like our Connect Illinois broadband plan – and creating more jobs in more than communities “.
Harris has indicated that Democratic lawmakers will be the ones to direct how the billion dollars is spent. It was not clear whether Republican lawmakers would receive money for their legislative districts.
Neither Harris nor Sims responded to Republicans’ claims that Democrats who created a partisan redistribution map to be approved by Pritzker would then be able to flood these new districts with “member initiatives” to solidify their political support. .
Democratic leaders interrupted Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, when he tried to ask more questions about the spending plan.
Senator Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, repeated similar complaints in his chamber about “democratic pig projects,” and he said the budget contained an increase in salaries for lawmakers at the cost of living and $ 666 million. dollars in “job-killing tax increases just as our economy begins to emerge from COVID-19.”
“This budget is an unprecedented spending spree of epic proportions,” said Rose.
The increase in state revenues has allowed Democrats to take from the table some of Pritzker’s proposals to eliminate corporate tax breaks to save the state more than $ 900 million over the next year. exercise.
But several of the biggest changes in tax breaks have remained in the Democrats’ budget, and Republicans see them as tax increases affecting 6,200 businesses statewide.
Republicans said the additional revenue would have allowed the General Assembly to avoid removing the nine tax breaks proposed by Pritzker and helping the state with its economic recovery at the same time.
Sims fended off criticism from Republicans.
He said the budget “absolutely funds” the priorities of Democrats “because we are fighting for individuals who cannot fight for themselves.”
He said Democrats were prioritizing funding for education, money for programs serving youth and people with autism over “the big companies that are more profitable than they ever have. summer”.
Sims said Republicans had plenty of chances to share their views in 30 budget hearings, but chose not to participate fully in the budgeting process.
“The ability to be inclusive is a two-way street,” Sims said. “Don’t just sit down and say ‘no’. If you want to obstruct, we will rule without you.
Democrats in the Senate used their qualified majority to pass a bill after the budget debate that sought to stop increases in the cost of living for lawmakers.
But Rose said the bill was a false promise from Democrats because the House, which is also expected to approve the pay freeze and send it to Pritzker’s office, adjourned the spring session without making a decision on the bill. of law.
Contact Dean Olsen: [email protected]; (217) 836-1068; twitter.com/DeanOlsenSJR.