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Illinois Senate Approves $50.6 Billion Budget

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SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Senate approved a $50.6 billion state budget late Thursday after Democrats failed to meet an initially self-imposed deadline and finally reached a consensus after several days of additional deliberations.

The bill has now gone to the House of Representatives and is expected to be voted on this weekend.

The Democratic-led Senate approved the budget by a 34-22 vote without Republican support, but minority lawmakers largely toned down long-standing criticisms of being excluded from negotiations. Still, they accused Democrats of neglecting their priorities.

Three Democrats (Senator Susie Growiak-Hilton of Western Springs, Senator Patrick Joyce of Reddick, and Senator Doris Turner of Springfield) joined the Republicans to oppose the spending plan.

The Chamber’s budget negotiator, Sen. Elsie Sims, a Democrat from Chicago, expressed disappointment at the lack of Republican support.

“We want your partnership,” Mr. Sims said across the aisle before the vote took place. “But we need your partnership to be transparent and genuine. When we can’t do that, we do it without you.”

Democrats, who control the governor’s office and both houses of Congress, face economic uncertainty after years of record revenues thanks to a strong job market and spending fueled by pandemic relief money and more. Therefore, the budget approval process has been delayed. .

“We’ve had money out of our ears for the past two years,” Rep. Margaret Croke, a Chicago Democrat and member of the House moderates’ group, said early Thursday. “We are very resourceful and this is the first year that we have had to take a hard look at the budget and make some difficult decisions where there are both winners and losers, and unfortunately , there will always be some benefit.’People who don’t get what they need. “

Late Thursday afternoon, Senate Democrats submitted an adjusted version of the spending plan presented by Gov. JB Pritzker and congressional leaders in an agreement that was completed the day before. The Senate adjourned late Wednesday night without the planned vote on the plan.

Members of the House met behind closed doors on Thursday afternoon to discuss initial plans, but Mr. Pritzker joined a group of reporters, including Sen. Speaker Don Harmon of Oak Park and House Speaker Emmanuel “Chris” Welch. It was not fully shared with the legislature until it stood before the Hillside announced that it had reached an agreement. They indicated they expected the budget to pass through both houses without significant changes.

Already last week, a self-imposed deadline to pass the budget was exceeded, with Senate Democrats postponing a vote to Thursday, setting the possibility of a final vote in the House early Saturday morning.

In a statement, Mr. Plitzer praised the Senate’s late-night vote, saying the plan “creates a transformative investment for Illinois’ children and families while building a track record of fiscal responsibility.”

“I look forward to the House taking up this budget that will make child care and education more accessible, health care more affordable, and further strengthen the state’s business and economic standing,” Pritzker said.

Just before the budget bill passed the Senate, Republican leader John Curran said the Democrats’ inclusion of the caucuses in budget negotiations was “a step forward in our partnership.” But he said the budget’s final deliverable “does not reflect the state of Illinois as a whole.”

He criticized the budget proposal for ignoring the “overwhelming demands for relief” from taxes and utility bills that he believes are “crushing” homes and small businesses after the COVID-19 pandemic. He also said the budget was not friendly to big companies, reflecting why companies like Caterpillar and Boeing have moved offices out of state.

“The budget presented here today definitely represents further expansion and growth for the state government at a time when Illinois itself is shrinking,” Curran said.

Before the plan begins to move forward on Thursday, House Democrats will meet demands from various caucuses within a record 78-member supermajority and the total spending agreed by Pritzker, Welch and Harmon. We acknowledged the challenge of balancing the need to stay within standards.

Democrats have had to contend with rising costs in a program that provides Medicaid-style health care benefits to immigrants who enter the country without legal authorization or who are ineligible for traditional insurance plans for the poor. .

Croke said disagreements within Democrats had eased over the past week, not least because the announced budget deal increased spending on immigrant health programs by more than $300 million from Pritzker’s original budget. In response, other party members privately acknowledged the active debate over competing budget priorities. The budget had the price pegged at his $220 million. Spending on the plan was expected to balloon to $1.1 billion, but Mr. Pritzker’s office said the proposal would give the administration a “tool” to control costs.

There was also disagreement over whether to extend the $75 million tax credit program for private school scholarship donors, which was excluded from the Senate-approved budget bill currently sent to the House. .

On Wednesday, the Pritzker administration highlighted budget elements including an additional $100 million in scholarship program subsidies for college students. $100 million increase in higher education funding. And $85 million was increased to support homeless prevention, affordable housing, and other programs related to the vision of “no homelessness in the state.”

The proposal would also add another $200 million to the state’s underfunded pension plans, in addition to the $9.8 billion required under state law.

The governor’s office also emphasized investing $20 million in a new Illinois grocery initiative to expand food access to urban and rural towns.

The more than 3,400-page budget proposal submitted by Senate budget negotiator Sims also includes $15 million for the state’s Violent Crime Witness Protection Program, compared to the $3,000 Mr. Pritzker proposed for the program in February. half a million dollars.

The program is the result of a 2013 law that required states to provide assistance to law enforcement when witnesses of violent crimes are in danger, but last year Mr. Pritzker added 3,000 to the program. It didn’t get the money until it allocated $10,000. . A spokeswoman for the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Service, which manages the fund, said on Thursday that the program is still in the works.

Also, $30 million was earmarked for a fund that distributes funds to police for body cameras and dashboard camera systems on police cars. In addition, he had $10 million dedicated to hiring and maintaining police officers and $4 million set aside for ballistics technology in firearms.

In addition, an additional $15 million was set aside for grants related to youth summer employment programs designed specifically to benefit young people in Chicago and other urban areas.

The budget also included increasing the percentage of state income taxes distributed to local governments by about $112 million, partially meeting the demands of local leaders, including new Chicago mayor Brandon Johnson. ing.

In response to another request by Prime Minister Johnson, the budget will provide $42.5 million to help migrants arriving from the country’s southern border. But in a realigned plan announced Thursday, the funds will be made available to counties and towns statewide, not just Chicago and other parts of Cook County.

A day after the Senate predictably failed to vote on the budget on Wednesday, Sims tried to downplay the disconnect between Democrats in the Senate and House.

“Like any budget, this is a 3,000-page document, so everyone wants to see if the terms of the agreement are actually on paper,” Sims said.

But at a committee hearing on Thursday morning, Republican Sen. Chapin Rose of Muhammadu said he would not agree with the Democrats’ plan to spend almost all of the $50.7 billion in revenue the state expects to collect in the General Fund. expressed concern about the lack of room for For the budget year starting July 1st.

“It’s only about $100 million after revenues and expenses,” Rose said, questioning whether state agencies would return to Congress for more money later this year.

Quincy Republican Senator Jill Tracy said it was “probably … a tactical mistake” by Pritzker and Democratic leaders announcing the deal before it was done.

“We should have done it after the budget was passed,” Tracy said.

Also on Thursday, lawmakers rebutted another outstanding issue. The House, 69-36, and the Senate, 36-18, approved a bill that would extend Chicago’s newly elected school board’s school district mapping deadline to April 1, 2024.

Although the deadline was July 1, the two map drafts were criticized in a public forum for not being representative of the diverse student population of Chicago public schools.

“The extension will give us more time to ensure that these last-minute submissions receive the proper consideration and analysis,” said the deputy chairman of the committee responsible for mapping and sponsor of the bill. Democratic Senator Robert Martwick said. Chicago’s elected school board.

The House also voted 69-35 to send Mr. Pritzker a bill that would require lawsuits challenging constitutional law to be filed in Springfield’s home counties of Cook or Sangamon.

Democrats who backed the bill tried to stop those who sued the state from trying to hear their cases before a judge they believed would rule in their favor, while at the same time trying to force the state in court. He said the resources of the attorney general’s office, which he represents, need to be conserved. .

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the state has been under a barrage of legal challenges to President Pritzker’s order, which includes eliminating cash bail and banning certain high-performance semi-automatic weapons. It also has new state legislation.

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Swansea Democrat MP Jay Hoffman, referring to a number of lawsuits filed by failed Republican Attorney General candidate Thomas DeVore, said: They were charging people $200.”

Republicans, including Rep. Dan Corkins of Decatur, who is suing the state over sweeping gun laws approved in January, called the bill a power grab by the Democratic majority.

“They pass unconstitutional laws that criminalize law-abiding citizens, and then move those same citizens hundreds of miles to kangaroo courts that they control,” said the Illinois chief in a gun control case. Cawkins said he is awaiting the court’s ruling. “The tyrant is always the same, whether he is a king or a lawless Chicago politician.”

Hoffman, who hails from the Metro East area outside St. Louis, said the Sangamon County circuit court is dominated by Republican judges.

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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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