Loan-reliant state budget heads to Governor’s desk, local lawmakers weigh in

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (NEXSTAR) — After a long day of overtime session, both the House and Senate passed the state’s budget.

The budget relies heavily on borrowed federal money, and gives Governor Pritzker the power to spend a large chunk of it. In total, the state is asking for $5 billion dollars from the Federal CARES Act.

“The unusual circumstances that we passed a budget under cannot be overstated,” Sen. Steve Stadelman (D-Rockford) said. “We had to not only pass a responsible budget, but to also address the vast challenges the state has now been place under due to COVID-19.”

Stadelman highlighted the additional funding the state received under the federal CARES act. The additional federal funding will be distributed to local governments, Business Interruption Grant program, rent and mortgage assistance and more.

“This budget addresses some of the most important challenges facing downstate communities like mine.” Stadelman said. “Health care workers and essential employees are on the front-line every day to ensure our safety and livelihood. They need assistance and they need it now. That is reflected in this budget.”

The massive financial ask rubbed Republicans the wrong way. They also hated the idea of giving more executive power to the Governor. Both chambers passed the budget along party lines.

“This budget does not take a step forward in accountability,” Rep. Tom Demmer (R-90) said in the debate. “It further gives a longer leash, to an executive branch, that has not earned it.”

Senator Dave Syverson (R-Rockford) also released a statement after the budget passed.

At a time when families and businesses are struggling, the Democratic-majority chose to push through a budget proposal that spends nearly $1 billion more in additional spending than the previous year, including over $100 million earmarked for pet programs added in the House. Meanwhile, as taxpayers are forced to tighten their belts, my Democratic colleagues passed a spending proposal that relies on $5 billion in federal borrowing. We demand our taxpayers live within their means, but Democratic lawmakers believe they can fill their deficits with unsubstantiated borrowing and optimistic thinking. It is clear by the amount of spending in this budget they are setting taxpayers up for a massive tax increase next year.”

Sen. Syverson

House Majority Leader Greg Harris presented the Budget on the floor of the Bank of Springfield center, and provided a bleak outlook for the state going forward. The State will go forward expecting this massive loan from the federal government, but Harris admitted that when that money actually hits the state’s bank account is up to the feds. All of that borrowed money can only be used for COVID relief efforts.

“We have a chance to make that help available, and again, this would be paid for by the Federal Government,” Harris said. “It would not be paid for through our General Revenue fund. But we have to jump at the chance to assist.”

While Governor Pritzker supported the need for borrowing the $5 billion dollars, he also showed some skepticism on if the Federal Government will ultimately come through at his press briefing Friday.

“Well, we don’t know what the federal government’s going to provide, but we believe that at least the two proposals that have been made in the Senate and in the House,” Pritzker said. “Each provide for enough, so that we will be able to fill the hole that’s been created by the tax revenues lost during COVID-19.”

Without the federal dollars, the state would have had to make huge cuts across the board. Harris said the alternative was cutting every program the state funds by 35 percent.

One of the line items victimized by the COVID-19 pandemic was K-12 Education. The amount allocated to elementary and secondary schools in this budget is the same as last year, despite the state’s Evidence Based Funding Model calling for an increase in funding.

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