Pritzker outlines $45 billion budget amid storm and GOP criticism – NBC Chicago

With inflation soaring and snow falling, Gov. JB Pritzker on Wednesday offered tax relief on groceries, gas and property as part of a $45.4 billion budget unveiled in a speech that also served as a warm-up for this fall’s gubernatorial election.

In the budget plan combined with the annual state of the state address, Pritzker offered a spending plan for the year beginning July 1 that represents a 3.4% decrease from the current year.

Typically, members of the House and Senate would meet in the House chamber to receive spending ideas from the governor, but the three-day winter storm forced legislative leaders to cancel the three-day session scheduled for this week.

Pritzker instead chose to speak at the historic Old State Capitol where he paid tribute to special guests, a group of teachers and medical professionals battling the COVID-19 pandemic who “showed up to working … during the worst health crisis our state has ever seen.”

The state of the state, said Pritzker, is “strong, unbreakable and enduring”.

With inflation at 7%, the governor wants to lift the 1% sales tax on groceries for one year, freeze the tax on motor fuel used for road construction at 39.2 cents per gallon instead allowing the indexed rate to increase to 2.2 cents and providing a rebate of up to $300 equal to the property tax credit available on income taxes.

The 57-year-old Democrat believes he’s on solid ground thanks to a stronger economy and his administration’s focus on debt and past spending. In November, Pritzker’s budget office reported that current-year tax revenue was $1.7 billion higher than forecast.

Pritzker said the budget balances even without $8 billion in federal pandemic aid. He noted the contribution of Democratic Comptroller Susana Mendoza.

“Meticulous work has been done … over the past 3 years to diligently and meticulously reverse the irresponsible decisions of the past and ensure that responsible budgeting would become the rule, not the exception,” Pritzker said.

But Pritzker’s assurance is contrary to the outcry of Republicans vying for Pritzker’s job.

A key challenger claimed that higher taxes are inevitable once federal money is spent. Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin reminded voters in a press release that Pritzker was seeking more revenue by increasing the share paid by wealthy taxpayers through a graduated income tax, which voters rejected in 2020.

“He plans to raise billions in additional taxes when the federal money runs out,” Irvin, who has yet to appear publicly in his campaign, said in the statement.

Sen. Dave Syverson said the federal money reduced overall spending but concealed a $2.5 billion increase in operations. These are costs that will continue even if there is no federal money to cover them, the Rockford Republican said, laying out “a huge post-election cliff that unfortunately taxpayers are going to get stuck with.” .

Pritzker’s office countered that the $8 billion in federal aid — the current budget uses $1.5 billion and there’s $535 million in the proposed plan — was used for pandemic-related spending. , not for ongoing programs, and that they adjusted for lower federal funding.

Bull Valley businessman Gary Rabine, another GOP prospect, was unconvinced, saying in a statement that the president “Biden paid off JB’s credit cards in Illinois last year. , but we are still in a fiscal death spiral”.

There is no doubt that the plan shows substantial debt investments that have long haunted the state. Pritzker intends to eliminate $898 million in outstanding bills for the employee health insurance program this year. What has been a monstrous backlog of bills due to state suppliers for the past few years — $7 billion on Wednesday — will be reduced to $2.7 billion, putting it on a 21-day payment schedule. There’s even $900 million set aside in a rainy day fund for unforeseen emergencies.

And the leviathan hole in state employee pension funding of about $130 billion will receive an additional, however small, contribution. The $9.6 billion for pensions in the next budget is still not enough to stay on track with legislation requiring substantially paid-out coverage by 2045. Pritzker is increasing that amount by $500 million to reach what aids call it a “tread watering hole”. ”

There are also additional program expenses. The Ministry of Children and Family Services would receive $200 million, in part to hire 360 ​​additional staff to deal with the rise in the number of special needs cases, an issue that has caused the brought to special attention by the stabbing death of a social worker in the field last month.

The Department of Social Services would receive an additional $95 million to care for residents with intellectual or developmental disabilities in an ongoing effort to provide equitable funding.

The $350 million annual increase for K-12 education promised in a 2017 public education overhaul is here and the need-based monetary reward program to help college education will increase to $600 million, an increase of 28.5%.

Rising crime will be a major campaign issue. Pritzker would invest $800 million in prevention programs, hire 300 more state troopers, direct $50 million in cannabis tax revenue to communities with crime problems, and increase funding to prevent gang crimes, hate crimes and increase the staffing of forensic laboratories.


Follow political writer John O’Connor at

NBC Chicago

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