Springfield senators share priorities going into final scheduled week of session

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) — It’s the final countdown as Illinois lawmakers have returned to the Capitol to wrap up work for their spring session. The House and Senate have hundreds of bills left on the docket and legislators on both sides of the aisle are preparing to see the Fiscal Year 2024 budget.

State leaders have been glad to see an exciting period of revenue growth throughout the final of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although, Gov. JB Pritzker and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle know the economy is slowing down a bit, which has led to a shakeup in budget negotiations.

“When we had a lot of federal money coming in, there were lots of programs that were going to be continuous programs that were new programs that the governor decided to fund,” said Sen. Steve McClure (R-Springfield). “Well, what happens when the federal money dries out? These big bills are still there, but unfortunately we don’t have the money to pay for them.”

McClure told WAND News Monday that lawmakers need to be thoughtful about each line of the budget as the country prepares for a recession in the second half of 2023. Although, Democrats and Republicans are supporting the governor’s proposed historic investment for early childhood education through his Smart Start Illinois plan.

“If we do everything that we need to do to be very intentional about education, then I think that addresses a lot of the other issues that we talk about,” said Sen. Doris Turner (D-Springfield). 

Turner told WAND News that she would also like to see significant investments in economic development, mental health services, and tourism.

“Economic development is something that is not just brick and mortar,” Turner said. “It really bleeds over to a whole lot of other things.”

McClure agrees that lawmakers should earmark plenty of state funding for economic development and mental health care services. Although, the Republican stressed that he would also like to see more investment in public safety through budget appropriations and bills filed by his caucus.

“We don’t put these legislative proposals out there hoping that they’re just going to be in the press for a day and then they’re forgotten about,” McClure said. “We put those out there to start a discussion. Unfortunately, our friends on the other side of the aisle have not been willing to come to us to have that discussion which has been very troubling.”

Both senators said they are hopeful that budget negotiators will keep overdose prevention as a top priority. Turner said she is also excited about legislation that could require the Illinois Department of Human Services to implement a two-year pilot program to provide Naloxone spray kits to community substance use providers and public health departments in five major metro areas including Sangamon County.

“Sangamon County has really been a leader with regard to access to Naloxone and actually putting it out into the community,” Turner said. “So, this pilot program will do a lot to assist with making that even more available and more spread out.”

McClure and Turner said they’re also trying to find ways to help Ameren customers struggling to pay their utility bills. Downstate lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have been discussing relief for Ameren customers since last year.

“When the state is passing legislation that causes all of our energy bills to spike up, they should be able to pay for them,” McClure said. 

Turner said she will continue to advocate for increased funding for agriculture, specifically investments that help Black farmers in the state. Meanwhile, McClure said the Senate and House GOP budget negotiators will not give up on their push to increase funding for direct support professionals who help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

WAND News will have full coverage of session throughout the week. The House and Senate are scheduled to adjourn on Friday. Although, lawmakers could continue working if they don’t have a budget finalized.

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May 15, 2023 at 10:40PM

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