Lawmakers, organizations react to Gov. Pritzker’s budget address

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP/WTVO) — Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday presented a slimmer state budget with no income tax increases but a reliance on federal relief from the COVD-19 pandemic, transfers from other funds and elimination of hundreds of millions of dollars of corporate tax breaks needing legislative approval.

The $41.6 billion operating budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 is a 4.2% decrease from its predecessor.

“I won’t pretend that these tough decisions don’t have a human impact, because we are operating within one of the most bare-bones government infrastructures in the country,” Pritzker said. “While the right-wing carnival barkers have used our state as a laboratory to undermine essential public investments, the fact of the matter is Illinois state government spends less money per person than the majority of states in this nation.”

Governor Pritzker’s first challenger for 2022, Republican gubernatorial candidate Paul Schimpf, released a statement slamming Pritzker’s speech as ‘misleading.’

“It was a massive leadership failure that Governor Pritzker failed to acknowledge that Illinois had a net loss of nearly 80,000 people during the past year in his State of the State Speech today.  

We are losing our population to surrounding states because they have lower tax rates including lower tax rates for corporations.  It is misleading to suggest that small businesses are not corporations.  

Governor Pritzker is proposing to increase corporate tax burdens that will only increase the exodus of Illinoisans to more business-friendly states.  We cannot solve any of our long-term problems unless Illinois returns to being a state where people want to come to raise their families and grow their businesses. 

Sadly, each day it becomes more evident that Pritzker would rather blame Illinois problems on everyone else including those who had no hand in creating our current problems.  The people of Illinois deserve better than this plan and Governor Pritzker’s lack of candor and leadership.” 

Rep. Andrew Chesney (R-Freeport) dubbed the speech as ‘tone-deaf’ in his statement.

“This was more political commercial than an honest budget address to the people of Illinois. While well-produced Hollywood-style productions may appeal to the egos of billionaires and elites like JB Pritzker, the speech rang hollow to families beleaguered by dysfunction in Illinois. Governor Pritzker made promises which have now been broken. This proposal is unbalanced at a time the state we love is hemorrhaging people and jobs. Job creators are looking for steady leadership and instead are finding a target painted on their back by the Governor.”

“If Democrats want meaningful, equal partners in bringing about a budget with flat or reduced spending, making the full pension payment and no new taxes or fees, they will find eager support from Illinois House Republicans.  They will not, however, find willing accomplices in glossing over the concerns of working families and job creators who have been besieged by the Governor’s executive overreach and, frankly, incompetent performance over the past year.”

Rep. Dave Vella (D-Rockford) stressed the importance of balancing Illinois’ budget while helping those who need it in his response to the address.

“The Governor’s budget address marks the beginning of a long process to ensure the General Assembly passes a balanced budget that addresses the needs of the state. I intend to work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to create a responsible budget that will protect vital services for our seniors and the most vulnerable in our society without burdening hardworking families with additional taxes.”

“As we work to rebuild our economy, we need a budget that provides proper support for small businesses struggling during the pandemic. As we take steps to save lives, we need to continue to protect livelihoods by protecting jobs and our local economy. We also need to look to the future by providing funding for schools to expand vocational education to prepare our students for high-wage jobs in the trades.”

“There is no doubt that we will have to make many difficult decisions in the coming months to get our state back on track to recover from this crisis that has impacted so many lives, our local economy and our state as a whole. The General Assembly needs to make sure we are responsibly using state funds to provide the highest quality of services to the people of Illinois.”

The Illinois Business Alliance President Jared Carl also slammed Pritzker for the state’s unemployment numbers.

“Today, Gov. Pritzker attempted to pay lip service to the Illinois business community. His actions tell a different story. 
 
“Pritzker’s time as governor marks one of the most negative business climates in Illinois history. In the spring of 2020, Pritzker ordered Illinois businesses closed. Many remain closed today, and some will never reopen. The price of Pritzker’s actions was demonstrated in Illinois’ high unemployment rates. At its peak last year, unemployment topped 1 million; today, too many Illinoisans remain unemployed. 
 
“Pritzker’s budget banks on skimming nearly $1 billion from the business community through a variety of measures. But make no mistake: No matter what Pritzker calls it, forcing businesses to send more money to Springfield is a tax increase. 

“Voters soundly rejected Pritzker’s last attempt to raise taxes on businesses when they voted down the graduated income tax amendment on the November ballot. The message then was as loud and clear as it is today: Illinoisans don’t want to send the state government more money. 
 
“Instead of raising taxes on businesses, Pritzker and state lawmakers should focus on reopening the economy and addressing the long-standing and systemic problems with Illinois’ finances. The state’s budget was in terrible shape long before the pandemic due to decades of fiscal mismanagement, unaffordable pension costs and corruption. These long-standing problems are where the governor should have focused today.”

The Illinois Primary Health Care Association also released a response, calling for more funding in underserved communities.

Today, Governor JB Pritzker delivered his annual budget address virtually, introducing his proposal for Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22). IPHCA commends Governor Pritzker for prioritizing racial justice and eliminating disparities, and his commitment to protecting our state’s health care and human services systems. However, we urge the Governor and the General Assembly to make a greater investment in strengthening the communities that have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic and long suffered from a lack of resources and investment.

We agree that the safety net must be protected. As part of the Governor’s commitment to advancing equity, it is imperative not only to shield health care and human services from cuts, but to strengthen funding for this vital system of support that equips individuals, families, and communities to live healthy lives and thrive. Community health centers services are inextricably linked to social services that address all of a patient’s needs, including their social determinants of health.

Health and human service programs are the backbones of robust communities and they are currently in high demand as a result of the devastating COVID-19 public health emergency that has left millions of Illinoisans facing grief, loss, illness, unemployment, isolation, and housing and food insecurity. Moreover, the pandemic has been particularly distressing for communities of color, immigrant communities, and low income communities – exacerbating the challenges they already face as a result of historic underinvestment and marginalization. 

It has been said before that a budget is a moral document. As such, we urge the Governor to work with the General Assembly and stakeholders to:

  • strengthen funding for health care and human services, including community health centers;
  • preserve coverage and payment parity for telehealth, which has proven to be a convenient and indispensable option for patients and providers;
  • maximize Medicaid dollars by investing in programs that will achieve long-term savings as well as improved outcomes, and give providers flexibility to innovate and better meet the needs of their patients;
  • address our state’s chronic health care professional shortages by increasing funding for student loan repayment programs like the Illinois National Health Service Corps Program;
  • release the $50 million in capital dollars appropriated to community health centers by the General Assembly in FY20, to address health care deserts by building new infrastructure in our underserved communities; and
  • expand reliable, affordable broadband access, along with tech literacy and devices, to bridge the digital divide and ensure universal access to telehealth regardless of income or zip code.

 
As a new legislative session gets underway and the state budget continues to take shape, we look forward to partnering with Governor Pritzker’s Administration and the General Assembly to ensure equity is not just a goal but a reality. By doing our part to grow access to primary health care in underserved communities, we can strengthen health outcomes for all Illinoisans.

Sen. Win Stoller (R-Germantown Hills) also released a statement:

“Once again, an Illinois Governor has failed to propose a constitutionally required balanced budget that utilizes existing state revenue. The Governor’s budget is $1.7 billion out-of-balanced and uses pretend revenue to make up the difference.

“Unlike real Illinois families and businesses, who have to use real money to balance their own budgets, Governor Pritzker is choosing to use the same failed budget gimmicks of his predecessors to hide his proposal’s short-falls.

“This proposal contains zero reforms and has no plan to finally fix our state’s financial issues. The Governor continues to kick the can down the road instead of addressing the root of Illinois’ fiscal problems, which includes our pension crisis, out of control property taxes and the businesses who are struggling to stay open.

“The Governor shortchanged our pension system by $4 billion when he decided to make the lowest pension payment required by law.”

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