SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — Governor J.B. Pritzker presented his budget address Wednesday to legislators and his Illinois constituents in a pre-recorded video at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.
The significance of that location is about 100 years ago, the state fairgrounds were used for a 100-bed emergency makeshift hospital in the 1918 pandemic. National guardsmen were busy setting up in the background as the governor spoke.
Acknowledging that Illinois is in a ‘state of crisis’, Pritzker’s address could be summed up in three words.
“The state of our state is generous, heroic and strong, always,” he said.
As part of the new budget, the Illinois Department of Employment Services will see increased funding, as will the Department of Children of Family Services.
It will also expire $932 million in tax breaks for businesses — which was described by the governor as ‘corporate giveaways.’
Pritzker defended his executive orders and business closures because they “were in the pursuit of one goal and one goal only — saving as many lives as possible. And we have done that.”
As of Wednesday, Illinois has the nation’s 14th worst COVID-19 mortality rate per capita.
In his address, Pritzker pointed to federal funding, such as Business Interruption Grants and CARES Act assistance, which came from Congress.
Illinois chose to take that funding and give it directly to businesses — one restaurant in Champaign even got a shout-out from the governor.
Not all businesses in Illinois were fortunate. That was one of the focuses he wanted to make: During these trying times, he wanted to show that spirit and generosity that had come forward.
In his address, Pritzker pressured five Republican congressional representatives from Illinois who have not signaled their support for President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 relief plan.
He also spoke about Illinois being a ‘debtor state’, which sends out more to the federal government in tax revenue than it gets back.
“For decades, Illinois has been forced to send billions more tax dollars every year to the federal government than we receive back from them in support of our citizens,” Pritzker said. “Federal spending is rigged against Illinois. We’ve been subsidizing public services for other states, like Iowa, Kentucky, Indiana, and Missouri.”
“Congressional action will help us today, but it won’t solve Illinois’ remaining fiscal challenges,” said Pritzker. “That’s why any money we receive from the federal government needs to be spent wisely, by paying down borrowing and our bill backlog.”
He also unloaded on the far-right, saying they had “made their name in politics by touting cuts to unemployment programs and health insurance coverage. They called anyone who sought unemployment benefits ‘takers.'”
“Throughout the pandemic, they have encouraged businesses to defy health guidelines, spread conspiracy theories about COVID deaths, and fought mask guidelines tooth and nail,” Pritzker said.
“Amidst the tragedy of this pandemic, they have lobbied against the federal government providing relief to Illinoisans, ignoring the life-changing economic pain of real working families.”
For the second year in a row, he used the phrase “right-wing carnival barkers” in his State-of-the-State address.
Some organizations and lawmakers have responded to Pritzker’s remarks.
“Spurned by the progressive tax defeat last November, Governor Pritzker is taking his anger out on the people of Illinois with his latest budget proposal,” says the Illinois GOP. “Despite a global pandemic that has forced families and businesses to cut costs to survive, Pritzker’s plan, riddled with accounting gimmicks, spends the same record amount as last year at the same time cutting funding for public schools, eliminating scholarships for poor children, and hiking taxes on small businesses.”
In response, State Sen. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) described the state’s finances as a “mess.”
“Rather than reality, we got gimmicks dreamed up in an alternate universe than the one Illinoisans have to live in,” he says. “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.”
State Sen. Darren Bailey (R-Louisville) said Pritzker is pushing “the same broken ideas.”
“Instead of making hard decisions to keep our state spending within its means, the same kind of decisions that families across Illinois struggle to make every day, Pritzker is again relying on job-killing tax hikes that haven’t passed and other budget tricks,” Bailey said. “We need a budget that makes responsible cuts and prioritizes spending where it is needed most, a budget that helps our businesses stay open and keep people working.
“We need real leadership from our Governor, not the same failed ideas that are killing our state.”
“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,” said Mark Denzler, president of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association. “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.”
Senate President Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) described the budget proposal as “a good-faith effort by the governor to both recognize our state’s financial realities and honor our commitments and priorities.”
“Coming out of this pandemic, we need to get people back to work,” he said. “Our first priority with any tax incentive needs to be jobs for hardworking Illinoisans.
“So, I think it’s fair to ask what the hardworking taxpayers of Illinois are getting in return for these corporate tax breaks. It’s entirely appropriate to put some of these incentives under the microscope to see what works and get rid of what doesn’t.
“Senate Democrats, however, are always interested in finding resources for education. I suspect this year will be no different.”
State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) expressed his support for Pritzker’s proposal.
“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,” Bennett said. “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.”
He said in a press release, the governor’s proposal increases funding for the Monetary Award Program (MAP) grant program, which provides financial assistance people from Illinois who attend approved colleges in the state.
“This will help ensure current recipients will continue to qualify and more college students will have access to academic opportunities,” Bennett’s press release says.
“Despite the challenges of the pandemic, this proposal prioritizes students’ needs and puts the state’s best foot forward,” Bennett said. “As the new chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee, I support keeping our best and brightest in Illinois.”