SPRINGFIELD – Illinois lawmakers are poised to vote Monday night on a proposed $42.3 billion state budget for the upcoming fiscal year that Democrats say would fully fund K-12 education and the state’s pension obligations while also paying down a sizeable portion of the state’s debt.
Lawmakers have been working on the budget since Gov. JB Pritzker delivered his proposal in February, and they are pressing hard to finish the process before the General Assembly’s scheduled adjournment Monday night.
The job became easier, however, with better-than-expected tax collections this year as well as passage of the federal American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, which will provide about $8.1 billion that the state can spend over the next four fiscal years. Lawmakers said they plan to use the money for one-time projects such as affordable housing development, public health improvements, violence prevention programs and infrastructure projects.
Presenting the budget to a committee Monday afternoon, House Majority Leader Greg Harris, D-Chicago, contrasted the situation Illinois faces now with the dire conditions it faced one year ago at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Here we sit today. We are back in our state Capitol,” he said. “We have vaccines. The world is beginning to open back up. We are seeing a bright, sunny day outside and there’s a lot to talk about that we have accomplished in the last year as a state that has put the state of Illinois in a far more stable place financially and a responsible place fiscally.”
Highlights of the proposed budget include increasing funding for the evidence-based funding plan for K-12 public schools by $350 million, bringing the total to $9.2 billion.
It also calls for spending about $7.5 billion in state general revenues on Medicaid, plus another $7.4 billion for other human services; $1.9 billion for higher education; another $1.9 billion for public safety; and $1.4 billion for general services.
In addition to those regular items, Harris said, the plan calls for spending about $2.5 billion of the ARPA money Illinois expects to receive. Of that, $1.5 billion would go for things like economic recovery programs to help businesses hardest hit by the pandemic, public health, affordable housing and violence prevention programs like after-school activities, and summer youth employment.
Another $1 billion of the ARPA funds would be directed into the ongoing Rebuild Illinois capital improvements program to accelerate some of the projects slated for construction.
Harris said the proposal also calls for paying down about $2 billion of bonded indebtedness as well as paying off all of the state’s internal, or “interfund” borrowing.
Republicans opposed the plan in a committee hearing Monday because it also relies on eliminating or delaying the implementation of some corporate tax cuts and business incentives, which Democrats have termed corporate “loopholes.”
The House and Senate are expected to vote on the package sometime Monday night.