FILE - Greg Harris, Illinois House Rules

Illinois House Majority Leader Greg Harris, D-Chicago, stands at the podium prior to the start of a House Rules Committee Hearing on the floor of the Illinois House of Representatives at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Ill., Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. 

(The Center Square) – The budget for the coming fiscal year that starts this summer is top of mind for Illinois state lawmakers, but there are other priorities being laid out.

The state Legislature will be in session through April 8. By then, they’re expected to pass a $45.5 billion state spending plan that’s set to start July 1.

Top level negotiations about how to implement Gov. J.B. Pritzker's proposed $1 billion in temporary tax relief for the forthcoming budget are underway.

One concern Kevin Artl with the American Council of Engineering Companies of Illinois raised deals with the governor’s proposed freeze of the annual gas tax increase set for July 1. Artl said that could lead to funding gaps of half a billion dollars over five years.

“Our first preference is to keep that in place and make sure that we can keep the commitment of Rebuild Illinois [the state's multi-year infrastructure plan passed in 2019] on to repair and modernize infrastructure, but we’re also realists and willing to work with all parties to find something that could work,” Artl said.

One idea Artl said is to adjust the sales tax that’s on top of the gas tax to provide relief for taxpayers.

House Majority Leader Greg Harris, D-Chicago, said they plan on taking input from all stakeholders.

“Both the House and the Senate are going to discuss do you keep as the governor introduced in his budget, do you do modifications, or is there a better alternative somewhere,” Harris said.

Other issues up for negotiation include the governor's proposed freeze of the grocery tax and a one-time property tax rebate of up to $300 for eligible taxpayers.

Spending tax dollars isn’t the only focus some are taking while in session. State Rep. Carol Ammons, D-Urbana, highlighted some priorities like lowering the cost of professional licenses and other things to help small businesses.

“They are indeed the lifeblood of our communities and we believe and we know by data that most people in our state work in a small entity and it is our intention to help them during these difficult times,” Ammons said.

Senate Republicans laid out one of their major initiatives, focusing on giving parents more of a voice in their children's education.

State Sen. Terry Bryant, R-Murphysboro, wants to add five members elected by court district to the Illinois State Board of Education in addition to members appointed by the governor.

“When mandates come from only one person to a board that is in essence controlled by that one person, people feel like their voices are not being heard, so this is a way to let their voices be heard,” Bryant said.

Senate Republicans are also looking to extend the Invest in Kids scholarship program and require posting curriculum online.

Lawmakers continue session Friday. The House is back at the capitol Tuesday. The Senate has next week scheduled off.

Associate Editor

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience and hosts the WMAY Morning Newsfeed out of Springfield.