State Budget Negotiations Continue in Springfield

The Illinois legislature is in a holding pattern, as negotiations on a budget continue more than a day after Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the General Assembly’s Democratic leaders trumpeted they’d reached a deal.

Democrats’ ranks are enough that they can easily pass a spending plan, but through Thursday, they couldn’t coalesce to get the job done.

Budget proposals (SB250 and HB3817) are prepared for action once lawmakers are ready to move.

Among the highlights, the new budget starting July 1 would include:

  • no new taxes, but also no tax cuts as Illinois saw in the current budget year and that were briefly contemplated for the incoming one;
  • $10 billion to pension funds, an amount that meets the state’s legal obligations but is billions below the contribution recommended by actuaries;
  • $350 million more toward the Evidence Based Funding formula, a school aide formula that helps the state’s most financially struggling schools; and
  • an increase of $112.5 million for the Local Government Distributive Fund, making for a slight increase in municipalities’ share of the state income tax, up from 6.16% to 6.47%.

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson in April traveled to Springfield to make the pitch for an increase in the fund; municipalities want the state to increase their share to 10%.

Despite all that and more nailed down, and despite the fanfare around the deal announced Wednesday, other elements of the budget are still in flux.

One potential change, per sponsor state Sen. Elgie Sims, D-Chicago, is an increase in wages for workers who care for individuals with intellectual disabilities. It comes after complaints from the Illinois Association of Rehabilitation Facilities, which sought a $4 per hour wage increase. Sims said the plan is to give the workers a raise of $2.50 per hour starting in January, halfway through the fiscal year.

A major snag to the budget had been over the ballooning cost of programs in which the state provides health care coverage for undocumented residents, a program that Latino legislators fought to expand to all adults, from ages 19 to 42.

Sims said the budget does not cover that expansion.

But at a Thursday morning hearing, he was unable to give a straight answer as to exactly how much Illinois will spend on those costs, saying it depends on how the Pritzker administration can rein in expenses once rules are passed that give the governor the ability to do so.

“At this point,” Sims said, “we don’t know what the expenditures will be for ‘24 because the cost containment measures outlined in the subsequent piece of legislation have not been passed and outlined yet.”

Also not included: a tax credit for donors to contribute to Invest in Kids, a state scholarship for low-income students to attend private schools. There’s some last-ditch lobbying to revive it, but barring a change, that program will end.

Rape crisis centers say they’ll face a funding crisis without more support, due to a sudden reduction in federal dollars.

“We came to the General Assembly to ask them to help bridge the gap in funding that would leave Illinois sexual assault survivors with long waiting lists for services, closure of satellite and outreach offices and staff layoffs,” said Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault CEO Carrie Ward.

The deadline to get all issues resolved and a budget passed is May 31. Beyond that, a super-majority of votes is required.

The state Senate could begin voting on a budget Thursday night. If it passes the chamber, the earliest the House could give its approval would be after midnight Friday.

Despite the delays and air of disfunction, some legislators said the process has been collaborative in a way that’s a welcome change from the Speaker Michael Madigan era.

Also still up in the air is a map of new districts for Chicago Public Schools as CPS moves to an elected board. Community feedback on legislators’ first two attempts was overwhelmingly negative. It’s possible the General Assembly will adjourn without taking up the maps, despite a law requiring it be done by July 1. That would entail either the legislature coming back to finalize the maps or changing current law to extend the deadline.

Meanwhile, dozens of other bills are moving.

If the back-and-forth on the budget is enough to make your head spin, one of the measures that received approval may help: a bill (SB89) that extends the ability of restaurants and bars to continue to-go cocktails service.

Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky

Region: Chicago,Politics,City: Chicago

via Stories by amanda vinicky

May 25, 2023 at 08:44PM

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