ILLINOIS (WAND) - Lawmakers and organizations spoke out both for and against Gov. JB Pritzker's budget address Wednesday.
The governor used the address, which was streamed online beginning at noon Wednesday, to focus on Illinois' battle to end the COVID-19 pandemic. He also talked about his budget proposal, which would combat debt Illinois is set to soon face.
Pritzker said the proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2022, which does not increase income taxes, takes the following steps:
- ends $1 billion in giveaways to corporations;
- strengthens safety net services for all Illinois residents in need;
- protects education funding as the federal government directs billions to schools;
- continues investments in economic development, infrastructure and the environment;
- and creates a more equitable Illinois through criminal justice reforms.
The governor's entire budget address can be read here.
As the governor covered in the budget address, COVID-19 led to massive losses for Illinois. There was a projected loss in revenues of close to $4 billion in the 2021 fiscal year as a result of the pandemic. To make up for this, the governor announced plans in late 2020 to make over $700 million in spending reductions for the new fiscal year.
Pritzker said at the time that strategies to meet that number would include a hiring freeze, decreases or freezes in allocations of grant money and operational savings. There's a more challenging landscape now to address finance issues, the governor said, after the graduated income tax proposal failed on the November 2020 ballot.
“The Republicans, who worked so hard to defeat the best solution, literally have no solutions. I’m waiting for them,” he said. “The General Assembly needs to come to the table here so we can make some decisions. I put on the table some very significant cuts, and they need to come to the table with their cuts, and we’ll see where they are.”
State Sen. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) brought up the 2021 budget in a statement critical of Pritzker's 2022 proposal:
“Our state’s finances are a mess. Rather than reality, we got gimmicks dreamed up in an alternate universe than the one Illinoisans have to live in. Who uses their Discover card to pay their Visa bill, anyway? That is what Governor Pritzker is doing with the current-year budget. And in the next budget year, removing the pension payment from the operating expenses of the state to pretend that operating expenses aren’t increasing – isn’t reality either. Nor is using $1.7 billion in assumptions that require federal or state legislative approval – this is the same junk that past governors of both parties have been roundly criticized for doing. Look, budgeting isn’t an easy job, and I don’t envy his position, but we can’t keep driving down the same broken road expecting better results. Speaking of ‘roads’ did I mention his ‘road fund diversions?” Again, thumbing his nose at the will of the people of Illinois who rightly instituted a “lockbox” constitutional amendment to protect road funding. He can say, ‘all is well’ but the people of Illinois know better and will not be fooled by today’s speech - just like they weren’t fooled by Pritzker’s progressive tax increase idea.”
State Rep. Dan Caulkins (R-Decatur) also offered criticism:
“Governor Pritzker’s budget proposal released today continues to punish the small businesses he forced to close last March by introducing new taxes on the very same small businesses doing all they can to survive during the pandemic. This budget is not balanced nor will it cure Illinois’ fiscal crisis. Now that we have seen the governor’s budget, it’s up to the House to hold appropriations hearings to craft a budget that is balanced – without new taxes and over-spending. The people I represent sent us to Springfield to fix the fiscal crisis, not make it worse. I will do everything I can to advocate for a balanced budget that will take effect on July 1.”
On the Democratic side of the aisle, State Sen. Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) said the governor's plan prioritizes families, students, workers and small businesses:
“This budget proposal acknowledges the hardships that families have faced and continue to face during this awful pandemic, while also looking ahead at the needs of the people within our communities. I’m pleased to see this budget proposal invests in agencies like the Illinois Department of Employment Security, which has been overwhelmed over the past 11 months.”
State Rep. Sue Scherer (D-Decatur) offered a statement that also mentioned support needed for families:
“The state’s budget must address the issues families are facing every day. We have all been witnesses to the crippling effects of this pandemic that has gone on for far too long. There will be many decisions made as lawmakers continue to work with the governor to create a balanced budget. We must make sure we are creating a safe and effective vaccine rollout plan so our communities can take the necessary steps to work toward normalcy. Our parents should feel safe and confident that their children can return to school and get their education without worry of the pandemic. We have many essential workers who have continually made sacrifice after sacrifice to ensure our communities could still operate during these trying times. We cannot let their efforts go in vain, as legislators, the time is now to make tough decisions in the best interest of the people of Illinois, our workers and those desperate to find a job."
Multiple organizations also sent statements to news outlets, including the Illinois Manufacturers' Association and the We Are One Illinois coalition of unions. While the IMA expressed displeasure with tax measures, the unions said Pritzker has closed tax loopholes. Their statements are below.
Illinois Manufacturers' Association President and CEO Mark Denzler:
“In the midst of a global pandemic that has caused widespread economic disruption, the Governor’s repeated attempts to hike taxes on small businesses and job creators is unacceptable, especially after voters overwhelmingly rejected his last plan to raise taxes. Illinois should be looking for ways to support businesses, create good-paying jobs, and jump-start investment in our communities. Instead, this administration wants to not only hike taxes but also cut job training funds intended to build a skilled workforce. Meanwhile, other states have embraced policies to grow the economy by cutting taxes, reducing regulations and adopting liability protections. Throughout the pandemic, manufacturers answered our nation’s call by making and donating personal protective equipment, creating life-saving vaccines and therapies, and stocking our grocery stores with safe and nutritious food. The industry stands ready to lead our economic recovery, but it’s imperative the governor and lawmakers work with manufacturers, not against us.”
We Are One Illinois:
“Illinois faces a budget crater caused by the pandemic and the defeat of the Fair Tax amendment that would have required the very rich to pay their share.
“We support Governor Pritzker’s proposed steps to address the budget shortfall by closing tax loopholes that big corporations exploit at the expense of the people of our state, and by decoupling Illinois from unwise federal tax changes.
“But our communities need essential public services now more than ever. More must be done to invest in schools, health care, public safety, help for the unemployed, for children and seniors, people with disabilities and more.
“Part of the solution lies with Congress. Like every state, city and town, Illinois needs the significant federal assistance found in President Biden’s American Rescue Plan.
“Further action from Springfield may be needed, as well. As the budget process goes forward, we will work with legislators and the governor to identify revenue-raising measures that can prevent harmful cuts and strengthen our state.”
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