Gov. Pritzker visits Rockford to highlight passage of Illinois budget

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker visited Rockford on Wednesday to highlight the benefits of the state’s recently passed $42 billion budget.

“Things are looking up for the state of Illinois,” Pritzker said earlier today at Rockford’s Indoor City Market, 116 North Madison Street.

The Illinois Legislature worked past its midnight deadline to approve a $42 billion state budget early Tuesday.

The state owed $1.2 billion — payable by December 2023 — on a $3.2 billion federal loan. Pritzker and legislative leaders announced 10 days ago that they’d pay that loan off early, saving $100 million in interest.

“In 2021, we pay our bills on time,” he said

The plan assembled on the final scheduled day of the Legislature’s spring session incorporated just a portion of the $8 billion Illinois expects in COVID-19 relief money that Congress approved last winter — but that pot includes $1.5 billion in additional construction projects.

Pritzker said 259 businesses in Winnebago County received benefits from the state’s Business Interruption Program during the COVID-19 pandemic. An additional $1 billion will be used on critical infrastructure projects, including high speed broadband for the entire state.

The governor said the budget allowed for an emergency rental assistance program to support residents unable to pay rent during the pandemic. Applicants are eligible for up to $25,000 covering up to 15 months of assistance. For a list of eligibility requirements for landlords and tenants, or to apply, click here.

Pandemic-battered sectors of the state would get $1.5 billion from Illinois’ allotment of American Rescue Plan Act. Hundreds of millions of dollars would be reserved for the Department of Human Services for programs to help the homeless, prevent suicide, counsel schoolchildren through the last year’s trauma.

“This pandemic has brought a whole lot of challenges to a whole lot of people in this state and in this nation . But it’s also underscored the need for smart investments that reflect the good spirit of our residents. Investments only possible when elected officials from all across our state come together and commit to doing the right thing for the people of Illinois,” Pritzker said.

“The fact that the governor chose to come to Rockford immediately after passing his budget shows how he prioritizes his community and wants to pass legislation and projects that will enhance our community in the months and years ahead,” said Sen. Steve Stadelman (D-Rockford).

“It was an initiative to a lot of people that this budget was balanced morally, not just economically,” added Rep. Maurice West (D-Rockford).

The governor said the state is working to pass a Clean Energy Bill, which would hopefully include funding to help keep the Byron nuclear power plant in operation. Exelon had announced the plant would close in fall 2021.

“We’re going to make sure our environment is taken care of through probably the most expansive and exciting energy policy ever. We are going to save the Byron nuclear power plant and make sure it stays open which gives us cheap, clean energy with great jobs and keep that open as longs as possible,” said Rep. Dave Vella (D-68th).

Pritzker also said a vaccine lottery is coming to Illinois, which would offer cash prizes to encourage residents to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

The governor also added that the state was on track to move into Phase 5 of the Restore Illinois plan, which would fully reopen the state, on June 11th.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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