Pritzker, Illinois Democrats Announce They’ve Reached Deal on State Budget

After missing their initial self-imposed deadline last week, Illinois’ Democratic leaders Wednesday announced they’d reached a deal on a state budget of about $50 billion.

“I will be proud to sign this budget when it arrives on my desk,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said. “This budget means that we are on a path to eliminating child care deserts, relieving some of the burden on parents who need to work while ensuring kids get quality care. This budget means that every working-class Illinoisian can get a community college education tuition free and fee-free.”

But as an indication the agreement isn’t completely solid — or at least that there is some wiggle room within it — Pritzker was unable to give an exact figure of how much the Fiscal Year 2024 budget will spend, nor is a total spending figure included on a fact sheet about the budget.

Also, after the afternoon announcement from Pritzker, Senate President Don Harmon and House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, a spokeswoman for the Senate Republicans refrained from comment because she said “conversations are ongoing at this time.”

As of Wednesday at 8 p.m., the budget had yet to be introduced; the measure (SB250) set to become the final spending plan was still just a placeholder, appropriating only $2.

Pritzker said the roughly $50 billion matches closely with the vision he laid out in February and includes funding for his Smart Start early childhood initiative; increases for the Monetary Award Program (MAP) that provides tuition grants to low-income college students; and bumps in funding to schools, homelessness prevention, Department of Children and Family Services staffing and a new children’s behavioral health transformation initiative.

The budget also fully funds the state’s required payment to its beleaguered pension funds and puts money in a rainy day fund.

To that end, Democrats said the budget makes good on two promises. For one, they said it’s fiscally responsible. 

“The agreement we’ve reached will produce another responsible, balanced budget that reinforces our state’s economic stability while making progress on key issues for the people of Illinois,” Harmon said.

Democrats also said the budget reflects the party’s progressive values.

“It makes smart investments in the services people need, and it is compassionate,” Welch said.

The main dispute that had held up an agreement was over a state program that provides health care to undocumented residents. The Pritzker administration projects costs are set at over $1 billion, more than could be absorbed by the budget barring major reductions to other priorities.

When outlining the framework, Democrats did not include how much it sets aside for the program in the future.

Pritzker said the deal is contingent on the General Assembly giving him “tools” like charging co-pays that will allow him to manage costs from ballooning “and instead allows us to provide health care for the people who are on the program now and make sure that we’re continuing the program going forward but in a budget-friendly way so that everybody gets the health care that they need,” Pritzker said.

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson had requested additional state finances to help the city handle an increase in migrants seeking asylum. Pritzker called the situation a “humanitarian crisis” that Illinois has been sending resources to and said the state will “continue to do all we can.”

Johnson also sought an increase in the share of the state income tax that municipalities receive.

Welch indicated on Wednesday afternoon that the Local Government Distributive Fund will increase, but details were not available about how much more cities are set to receive.

The governor said the plan will increase Medicaid reimbursement rates, though not at the level hospitals and other health care providers wanted.

The Illinois Association of Rehabilitation Facilities, which represents frontline staff who work with people with developmental disabilities, came out against the budget. Workers have been advocating for a $4 per hour wage increase, but said the proposed budget gives them half that — a boost that IARF said will not do enough to bring more people into the profession, therefore prolonging a workforce shortage.

“These are very difficult but rewarding jobs, and we need to pay them more to draw more people into these careers,” IARF president Josh Evans said in a statement.

Senate Republicans are reportedly still in talks. Should they get on board, Pritzker would be able to score a political notch of bipartisan buy-in.

But Illinois Republican Party Chair Don Tracy was dismissive of the deal, issuing a statement that said “this budget constitutes a partisan wish list, not a negotiation. With complete control of government, Illinois Democrats continue to tax and spend.”

Leader of the House GOP Tony McCombie also said she’s disappointed, and bemoaned that the deal breaks “past promises” by not extending a tax credit for research and development and a tax credit given to donors who help low-income students attend private school via the state’s Invest in Kids scholarship program.

“Today we learned from Governor Pritzker and Democratic leaders that our shared priorities are not included. I am incredibly disappointed for Illinois families,” McCombie said.

No Republican vote is needed on the budget, however. Democrats have more than enough members in both chambers to pass a budget without any GOP support.

While even some Democratic legislators indicated on Wednesday that they were unaware of details, the governor and legislative leaders appeared confident lawmakers from their party would get on board.

Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky

Region: Chicago,Politics,City: Chicago

via Stories by amanda vinicky

May 24, 2023 at 08:46PM

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