Illinois Senate Democrats pass Fiscal Year 2024 budget, send $50.6 billion plan to House

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) — The Illinois Senate approved the Fiscal Year 2024 budget proposal at 11:15 p.m. Thursday night. 

This $50.6 billion spending plan includes $350 million for the evidence based funding model for K-12 schools and $250 million to launch Gov. JB Pritzker’s Smart Start Illinois plan to get more children in preschool and expand childcare services.

Democratic sponsors also included a $100 million increase in MAP grant funding to ensure anyone at or below the median income level can go to community college for free.

Senate Republicans thanked Senate President Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) and lead budgeteer Elgie Sims (D-Chicago) for allowing bipartisan input throughout the budget negotiation process.

While GOP members said there were many good things included in the budget, the caucus was upset that Democrats did not agree to a $4 raise for direct support professionals helping people with developmental disabilities.

“I am respectfully saying thanks to everybody who worked for $2.50,” said Sen. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet). “But it crowded out $4, which is what the actual study that was done said is necessary to legitimately serve those who cannot, through no fault of their own, help themselves.”

Sims told Rose that the state will pay direct support professionals $20 million, and the federal match will bring the net value to $40 million. Employees would receive their $2 raise at the start of the new fiscal year on July 1. However, the extra 50 cents would not be in place until January 1. 

Senate Republicans also noted frustration over the choice to not appropriate funding for the Invest in Kids scholarship program to help low-income students go to private schools.

“I believed at the beginning of this process as I believe now that the tension in these disjointed movements will be profound,” said Senate Republican Leader John Curran (R-Downers Grove). “It does not just include misplaced spending priorities, but bad investments on behalf of the people we represent.”

While Republicans argued the Democrats had misplaced priorities, Sims said the legislation is a balanced budget that will help every community. 

“You don’t like the budget here. You don’t like the budget there,” Sims stressed. “You don’t like the budget near. You don’t like the budget far. You won’t vote today. You won’t vote tomorrow. You won’t vote anyway.”

The spending plan includes $400 million for economic development and $22.8 million to implement the state’s behavioral health transformation for children.

Democrats also earmarked $700 million for the pension stabilization fund, which is $200 million more than the required annual payment. The budget also features $450 million to pay the rail splitter bond debt. Democrats believe this decision could save the state $60 million in interest.

“Are there good things in here? There are absolutely good things in here,” said Sen. Jason Plummer (R-Edwardsville). “But at the end of the day, this shouldn’t be a Democrat bill or a Republican bill. This should be a budget that grows the state of Illinois. This should be a budget that helps the constituents from the Wisconsin border to the Kentucky border.”

The Illinois Department of Public Health could receive $42 million for equity and representation in health care and $38 million for safety net hospitals in low-income communities.

Senate Bill 520 passed out of the Senate on a partisan 34-20 vote.

“I share your disappointment that we weren’t able to resolve every non-budget issue. But I’m also disappointed that a failure to resolve non-budgetary issues prevents a unanimous vote on a responsible balanced budget,” Harmon said. “This is a budget that invests in our shared priorities.”

The House was then able to read the budget proposal into the record for the first time before midnight. House Democrats plan to vote on the budget after the clock strikes midnight Saturday morning.

Pritzker thanked Harmon, Sims and the Senate Democrats who voted in support of the spending plan. The governor stated that this will be the state’s fifth balanced budget under his administration that includes historic investments in children and families while building on fiscal responsibility.

“I look forward to the House taking up this budget that will make childcare and education more accessible, healthcare more affordable, and our state’s business and economic position even stronger,” Pritzker said. 

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May 26, 2023 at 01:50AM

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