Pritzker, Democratic leaders reach agreement on FY23 budget

Gov. JB Pritzker stands with Senate President Don Harmon and House Speaker Emanuel "Chris"...
Gov. JB Pritzker stands with Senate President Don Harmon and House Speaker Emanuel "Chris" Welch as they announced an agreed budget plan.(Mike Miletich)
Published: Apr. 7, 2022 at 9:11 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - Top Illinois Democratic leaders have come to an agreement on the Fiscal Year 2023 budget that includes $1.8 billion in tax relief.

Gov. JB Pritzker invited Senate President Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) and Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch (D-Hillside) to provide the budget update Thursday afternoon.

This plan suspends the state’s 1% grocery tax for a year, freezes the Motor Fuel Tax for six months, and doubles the property tax rebate so households could receive up to $300 back.

Democratic negotiators also agreed to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income workers 18-24 years old without children, adults 65 and older, and undocumented immigrants.

The plan could also produce direct checks to working families with $50 per person and $100 for up to three children per family. Democrats will only provide those checks to single-filers making less than $200,000 and joint-filers making up to $400,000.

A separate part of the relief package could save families and teachers $50 million with a tax credit for buying school supplies.

“It honestly helped that we all came into this process committed to a fiscally responsible spending plan that improved our state’s finances and helped our people in an hour of genuine need,” Pritzker said.

The agreed budget will invest more than $200 million above Pritzker’s original proposal for law enforcement and violence prevention programs. Democrats also want to put $1 billion into the state’s rainy day fund and earmarked $200 million for pension obligations.

“This is a great budget that reflects the needs and priorities of the people of this great state,” Harmon said. “We’ve gone through some unique times. And together the last couple of years, it’s perhaps fitting that we have a unique budget that is the result of working together like never before.”

Harmon expects the budget to be passed Friday. He explained Democrats were finishing the procedural movement for the plan and would have a bill number announced as soon as possible.

Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods) said the agreed budget is unfortunate because lawmakers still have time to provide permanent tax relief for Illinoisans.

“Instead, the Democrats are choosing to provide one-time checks and other temporary relief just before the election which expires right after the election. Additionally, we are significantly increasing government spending,” McConchie said. “Evidently, they think they know how to better spend your money better than you do.”

House Republican leaders were also critical of the announced budget plan. House Deputy Republican Leader Tom Demmer (R-Dixon) noted that Pritzker previously tried to put a graduated income tax system in place for Illinois and voters rejected it. Now, the governor is running for re-election.

“He’s used the avalanche of federal bailout cash to paint a rosy picture of the state budget,” Demmer said. “But the facts show a different story. This year’s budget increases spending by 8% on state operations, while revenues are projected to decline by 1% over the same period - which makes this budget framework untenable.”

Welch said people should recognize that lawmakers are getting a budget out much earlier than normal. The spring session usually ends on May 31, but Democrats scheduled a shortened session to allow people time to campaign before the primary election on June 28.

The Speaker said Democrats were intentional in allowing Republicans and the press a full day to review the initial budget proposal. Welch noted that Republicans participated in a budget hearing Wednesday and were invited to a meeting Thursday where GOP members had no questions for Democrats.

“In committee yesterday, they unanimously supported the revenue proposals that are being talked about here today. So they haven’t been left out of the process,” Welch said. “When they choose to participate is totally up to them. But they have certainly been a part of a very accessible and transparent process.”

Meanwhile, Republican Floor Leader Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield) said Illinois is experiencing an “inflation-induced sugar high.” Batinick explained the state won’t have federal funds left for a bailout later on.

“No structural changes have been made. No permanent property tax relief has been extended, and no regulatory relief has been implemented,” Batinick said. “Eventually, the pressures of inflation will catch up to the expense side of the ledger. There are storm clouds on the horizon.”

The spring session is set to end Friday.

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