SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WREX) — Gov. JB Pritzker says he hoped to continue cutting down on the state debt he inherited from previous administrations through the budget he proposed in February.
The COVID-19 pandemic crushed any hope that could happen in Fiscal Year 2021. "This virus has blasted a hole through estimated incoming revenues for not just Illinois, but for the 50 states across the nation," Pritzker said Sunday morning. "The budget the General Assembly has sent to my desk acknowledges that massive economic disruption leads to difficult decisions."
The governor notes the budget cuts his original proposal by roughly $1 billion. It also holds state spending flat at levels from Fiscal Year 2020 in most areas. As many lawmakers stated during debate, Pritzker knows there will be more hard choices ahead.
Illinois is relying on $5 billion from the federal government in order to fulfill a significant portion of the budget. However, state lawmakers don't know when Congress will discuss how money from the CARES Act will be distributed. Democrats and Republicans say the funding will come to Illinois through loans, and the state hopes to pay back what they receive through funding Congress can pass in the next stimulus package.
"I do not think legislators will in fact get a raise"
Through the budget, lawmakers gave themselves an $1,800 pay raise. This will bring their annual salary close to $71,000. Republicans are upset this is in the final budget plan during a pandemic. Many note the budget keeps funding flat for K-12 schools and the evidence-based funding model. The formula requires an increase of funding each year to fully operate. Most universities will also see funding stay at FY20 levels. The Bureau asked Pritzker how he can tell Illinoisans this is the right move.
"Well, as you know, the appropriations bill does not have those dollars in it. So, even though the budget seems to have it in there, it was taken out."
The governor says Democratic budget negotiators told him it was removed from either the appropriations bill or budget implementation (BIMP) proposal. "I do not think legislators will in fact get a raise this year." Many lawmakers argue that isn't the case.
"In addition to the increase in spending, Democrat legislators, who refused for weeks to return to the Capitol, elected to pass a budget that contains a pay increase for themselves," Sen. Jason Plummer (R-Jacksonville) posted on Facebook. "It's inconceivable for legislators to standby and accept a pay raise while the people of this state are struggling just to survive." Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris) also condemns the raise. "Lawmakers send the wrong type of message to their constituents by passing a pay increase during a global pandemic.” Three House Democrats joined Republicans to vote against the budget implementation bill because of the cost of living increase.
"I've spoken with several including Heather Steans, including Sen. Manar and others who seem to feel that no, they managed to get that out of it and took care of it," Pritzker said.