Illinois House preparing to debate $45.6 billion budget proposal

Members of the Illinois House could vote on the Fiscal Year 2023 budget Wednesday night.
Members of the Illinois House could vote on the Fiscal Year 2023 budget Wednesday night.(Source: Gray TV)
Published: Apr. 6, 2022 at 8:25 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - Illinois House Democratic leaders unveiled a $45.6 billion budget plan late Tuesday night. The supermajority was able to move that bill out of the House Executive Committee less than 24 hours later. A vote on the House floor was expected late Wednesday night. However, the House adjourned until 10 a.m. Thursday without a budget debate.

House Bill 969 includes investments in public safety and community mental health services. It would also spend $200 million more than Gov. JB Pritzker’s proposed budget of $45.4 billion in February.

But where will that extra money come from? The economy continues to shock many with unexpected revenue coming into Illinois. House Majority Leader Greg Harris (D-Chicago) also says Illinois will end Fiscal Year 2022 with a budget surplus for the first time in 25 years.

House Democrats explained Wednesday that their plan will help many still struggling with impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the top priorities is $170 million for community mental health and substance use programs. Sponsors also hope that money can help hire more treatment specialists to get people the resources they need.

Harris said special attention is given to safety-net hospitals and long-term care facilities.

“These professionals bore a lot of the brunt of COVID at the beginning,” Harris said. “And they’re still suffering today because of lots of lost revenue, increased staffing costs, workforce development issues, and increasing PPE costs.”

He also explained that Democrats hope to put a large chunk of federal American Rescue Plan funding toward relief for the hospitality industry, and $98 million could also go to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Meanwhile, $490 million could be appropriated to the Emergency Rental Assistance program.

The budget plan is 3,269 pages and House Republican staff spent hours trying to find everything in the plan. Rep. Tom Demmer (R-Dixon) asked Harris what the total revenue projections would be to fund the budget. Harris said leaders expected to see $45.8 billion going into FY 2023. Although, that estimate has now reached over $46 billion.

“This is a lot of information to get through, so we’re still working on it,” Demmer said. “We’ll be watching whatever comes out from the Senate as well. I know we still have three days left.”

The House passed seven different proposals Tuesday night to address public safety and support law enforcement. Democratic leaders were able to break down the estimated budget costs for those plans Wednesday.

The budget includes $250 million to implement the Reimagine Public Safety Act. Although, House Democrats at the negotiating table want an additional $236 million for public safety. Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth (D-Peoria) says $124 million could help the local police department buy body cameras, license plate readers, forensics equipment, and non-lethal weapons.

That funding could also go to police retention grants and mental health resources for officers. Hazel Crest Police Chief Mitchell Davis with the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police is excited and said the historic investment is critical.

“We can have all the great legislation in the world. We can have all the great ideas in the world,” Davis said. “But if we don’t have the funding to implement it, it’s going to be all for naught. Well, collaboration happened again and our elected officials stepped forward.”

A separate $50 million is earmarked for domestic violence prevention, $48 million is set aside for local safety councils and youth summer programs to help deter carjackings, and $12 million in the budget could fund a new tip line for neighbors to share information about crimes. Democrats also included $2 billion to improve trauma recovery services for crime survivors and their families.

“It is too important to be politicized and we won’t allow for that to happen in this space,” Gordon-Booth said. “We know that we have the ability to work collectively with community, with police officers, to get to a desired result by both entities by building collaboration and relationship.”

A separate proposal, House Bill 1497, includes tax relief for most families across the state. A permanent expansion of the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit is one of the major components. That change can help low-income childless workers 18-24 years old, anyone 65 and older, and undocumented immigrants. That is estimated to cost the state $103.5 million but lawmakers argue more money will go directly back into local economies once people receive that benefit.

“The impact of the House proposal is huge,” said Amber Wilson, the Campaign Manager at Economic Security for Illinois. “It would reach over 4.5 million Illinoisans across every single zip code in the state and offer hundreds more to low-income families at a moment when relief is sorely needed.”

Rep. Carol Ammons (D-Urbana) led the legislative fight alongside members of The Coalition to Make EIC Work. She stressed that low-wage earners and their families have been on the frontlines throughout the entire pandemic and they deserve permanent relief.

“Research has shown that the earned income credit is one of the tools that can move people out of poverty and change their very direction,” Ammons said.

House Democrats call the entire effort the Illinois Family Recovery Act. Portions of the plan are identical to Pritzker’s family tax relief proposal, including freezing the state’s 1% grocery tax for a year, suspending the cost of living adjustment on the gas tax, and providing one-time property tax relief.

Although, Republicans aren’t fans of one provision of the gas tax language. The Democratic proposal would require gas stations to have a sticker at every pump explaining why customers won’t have to pay for the cost of living adjustment. Republicans argue that would be another election-year gimmick. The Illinois Fuel & Retail Association also is opposed to the plan.

“Why don’t we drop this out? It does seem like electioneering, kind of giving people evidence to an election year gimmick,” said Rep. Ryan Spain (R-Peoria).

House Revenue Chair Mike Zalewski (D-Riverside) said he was willing to remove that portion of the proposal to gain bipartisan support for the tax relief package.

This plan also creates a separate tax rebate for low-income families. Families eligible for the earned income tax credit could also receive $100. They could end up with an additional $50 per child in households receiving the earned-income tax credit. Democrats estimate that could cost roughly $165 million.

House Bill 1497 could also double the tax credit for teachers to buy supplies for their classrooms. Zalewski said the entire Illinois Family Recovery Act could cost $1.38 billion. Although, that could be fully paid off with the outlandish revenue Illinois has seen over the past year.

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