Illinois Democrats Announce Agreement Reached on State Budget


SPRINGFIELD—Democratic Governor JB Pritzker and Illinois legislature leaders announced Wednesday afternoon that they had reached an agreement on a state budget of about $50 billion and will move it quickly to a vote in the Senate.

The deal comes amid disagreements between the governor’s office and the Democrats who control both Congresses over how to balance the ballooning costs of immigrant health care programs with other party priorities, lawmakers said Friday. This was concluded in response to the failure to meet the self-imposed deadline for approving the spending plan. .

With the budget bill formally submitted before 9:30 p.m., the Senate will take action by the end of the day and complete the procedures necessary to meet the newly set goal of ending the spring legislature by Friday. Little time was given to allow Congress to comply with the requirements.

Late Wednesday, it was unclear if a vote would take place, and a spokesman for Democratic Senate Speaker Don Harmon in Oak Park said the bill “will be reviewed by all parties to ensure it reflects our consensus.” It is being done,” he said.

The agreement, announced by Pritzker with Harmon, Democratic House Speaker Emmanuel “Chris” Welch of Hillside, and others in the State Legislative Courtroom, expands access to early childhood education and higher education, among other priorities, the governor said. is in line with the proposal of

But Medicaid-style programs for immigrants will continue to put pressure on the national budget. A spending plan Mr. Pritzker proposed in February set the cost of the program at $220 million, but the Pritzker administration has since increased that estimate to $1.1 billion, although some Democratic lawmakers and supporters have questioned this prospect.

The budget deal will allocate about $550 million for the program, giving the administration “tools” to control costs, according to the governor’s office.

After Democratic lawmakers refused to cut funding for other programs and enact cost controls recommended by the governor, such as copays and income limits, Mr. Pritzker called for political action to control the program’s future costs. Agreed to take responsibility.

“The Senate and House have agreed to provide the tools to properly manage the program,” Pritzker said, adding, “This will ensure that people who are currently in the program are receiving medical care and that the program is safe. can continue,” he added. The program will continue, but in a budget-friendly way to ensure that everyone gets the health care they need. ”

The program applies to immigrants over the age of 42 who are entering the country without legal authorization, or who have a green card but have not completed the five-year waiting period and are ineligible for traditional poverty insurance programs. It targets immigrants who

Mr. Pritzker, who has his eyes on a potential future presidential run, has been reluctant to put limits on the program, which members of the Latino Congressional delegation hold dear. hoped to expand the program to young immigrants. The expansion was one of the first budget proposals to be rejected, but it’s unclear whether the program’s backers will be satisfied with whatever cost controls Mr. Pritzker ultimately implements.

Still, the agreement on how to proceed with the plan represents another example of a risk-averse Democratic-led General Assembly, with Mr. Pritzker running the state with little to no emergency orders under the pandemic. I endured criticism for what I was doing. No pushback.

Some Democrats have pushed for more spending in other areas, such as funding elementary and high schools. The budget deal would increase overall school funding by $350 million this year, an annual target set by state law that some hoped would exceed.

There is also pressure from Chicago’s new mayor, Brandon Johnson, to increase state support for the city’s efforts to serve migrants arriving from the southern border. At the afternoon press conference, Mr. Pritzker did not say how much money was included in the proposed budget to support the city’s expenses. But a bill introduced six hours later showed that $42.5 million would be shared between the city and the rest of Cook County.

The agreement maintains Pritzker’s top priority, a $250 million proposal to strengthen services for the state’s youngest residents and their families, including expanding state-funded preschool programs. It will be.

This year’s budgeting process will be further complicated as tax revenues begin to slow from last year’s record levels, putting pressure on Democrats to curb spending while funding lawmakers’ priorities.

In announcing the deal, Mr. Pritzker emphasized that the spending plan was balanced and included the education funding he was seeking.

“As governor, my job is not just to look at what’s in front of us, but to prepare for the next five, 10, 50 years,” Mr. Pritzker said. “And like the last four budgets, this budget will also ensure that every child in the future has a quality education from cradle to career, and the care and training every parent needs to get a better-paying job. We see a future where every Illinois has a safe place to call home, a safe community to live in, a future where economic security means an opportunity for everyone to thrive.”

The budget will include an additional $100 million in prize program grants for college students. The Pritzker administration said the funding would allow students below the median income to attend community college for free.

Higher education spending will also increase by $100 million, of which $80.5 million will go to public four-year colleges and $19.4 million to community colleges. The investment comes after faculty members at Governor State University, Eastern Illinois University and Chicago State University temporarily went on strike last month.

The budget will provide an $85 million increase to support homeless prevention, affordable housing, and other programs related to the vision of “no homelessness in the state.” The budget also includes a $20 million investment in a new Illinois Grocery Initiative to expand food access to suburbs and rural towns.

With more than $200 million in increased funding to help residents with developmental disabilities, the struggling Illinois Department of Children and Family Services will employ 192 staff and spend 7,500 to improve the functioning of facilities and other agencies. It is expected to receive an increase of nearly $10,000.

The proposed increase in funding for services for people with developmental disabilities was criticized as inadequate by groups representing health care providers who, over the years, have asked states to increase funding further in order to comply with the Federal Consent Act.

The Illinois Association of Rehabilitation Facilities is demanding a $4 wage hike for workers on the front lines of the industry, but the deal only covers a $2 an hour increase.

“We regret that this budget and the needs of our frontline workers have not been met and the workforce crisis has continued,” said Josh Evans, the group’s president and CEO, in a statement Wednesday. “We must oppose other state budget proposals, including one that leaves the salary structure alone.” .

Other budget items include $22.8 million for children’s behavioral health programs, an increase of $18 million to support reproductive health programs, and future public health emergencies following the COVID-19 pandemic. Includes $53.5 million to the Illinois Department of Public Health to prepare.

It will also set aside $24 million to raise rates for home workers to help an aging society, expand support for the elderly, and provide adult day care services.

Investments in violence prevention initiatives established by the 2021 law will continue, requiring more than $240 million in spending over multiple years. The program distributes funds to statewide groups that specialize in conflict mediation, connecting those most at risk of being victims or perpetrators of violence to therapy and other social services.

The budget also includes $400 million in funds to help Mr. Pritzker attract big businesses to the state. Lawmakers approved a similar funding in January, but the money will roll over rather than be disbursed by the end of the current budget year.

To launch more socially equitable cannabis businesses, $40 million will be set aside in forgiven loans, with $20 million available for capital projects in downtown areas of towns across the state, according to the governor’s office. It says.

Democrats maintain overwhelming majorities in both chambers, and the budget could pass without a Republican vote. The Senate Speaker downplayed disagreements among Democratic leaders during budget negotiations.

Along with Pritzker and Welch, “the confidence of the three of us has never been greater, and we look forward to finalizing this budget without deviating from it.”

Senate Republicans are still considering the Democratic budget proposal after it was submitted late Wednesday, according to Senate GOP spokeswoman Whitney Burns, and Senate Republican leader John Curran “is still in touch.” It says.

House Republican leader Tony McCombie said in a statement the same day that some of the caucus’ budget priorities were included in the Democratic budget, including extending the $75 million tax credit program for those who donated to private school scholarships. lamented that they were not

“Today we learned from Governor Pritzker and Democratic leaders that our common priorities were not included. I am deeply sorry for the families in Illinois,” she said. .

Mr. Pearson reported from Chicago. Tribune reporter Hank Sanders contributed from Springfield.

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Written by Natalia Chi

Chicago Popular; Chicago breaking news, weather and live video. Covering local politics, health, traffic and sports for Chicago, the suburbs and northwest Indiana.

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