(The Center Square) – The state budget Illinois lawmakers passed during a truncated pandemic special session is now law.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the budget that begins July 1. The spending plan relies on billions of dollars in federal aid that haven’t materialized, keeps spending level from the current year despite revenue losses and cost increases from the COVID-19 pandemic and gives Medicaid access to seniors who are undocumented residents.
In a statement, the governor also urged the federal government to pass a funding plan to give state and local governments billions of dollars in an effort to cover parts of the state’s $42.9 billion spending plan.
Pritzker also signed a measure to allow the state to borrow up to $5 billion from a new Federal Reserve loan program. The budget implementation bill he signed gives rate increases to some social service employees and opens up Medicaid for undocumented senior residents, a cost estimated to be $1.8 million, or 0.0042 percent of the state's total budget.
"This budget buys the state time to get to a better tomorrow, one in which medical science helps us push back against this disease and Washington steps up to help jump-start the economic recovery of Illinois and every other state in the country,” Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, said.
Ted Dabrowski, president of financial watchdog Wirepoints.com, said the budget was irresponsible.
"This is by far the most irresponsible budget ever passed by an Illinois legislature," he said. "It spends a record amount of money in the middle of one of the worst recessions ever. The budget offers no cuts or reforms to provide relief to struggling taxpayers. Instead, it relies on an income tax hike that will burden businesses and residents while they try to recover from the government-imposed shutdown. In all, lawmakers have run up a deficit of over $6 billion and they’re counting on the federal government to bail out the state. Lawmakers continued failures are causing the words 'bankruptcy' and 'Illinois' to increasingly go hand in hand."
Republicans opposed the measure in the Illinois House with many saying it was not balanced because it relies on federal aid that has not been approved. There was also criticism the budget doesn’t face the fiscal realities of lost revenue.
“If Congress fails to enact funding for states and local governments in the near term and additional revenue from Public Act 101-8 doesn’t pass, the governor and his administration will work with the newly created Legislative Budget Oversight Commission and the Illinois General Assembly to identify solutions for addressing any financial gaps,” the governor’s office said Wednesday.
The budget spends $8.9 billion on K-12 education and $1.9 billion on higher education. Social services get $7 billion. Criminal justice and public safety get nearly $2 billion while Medicaid gets $8 billion. There are also millions of dollars in the budget for increased election-related funding.
For COVID-19 relief, the budget funds $3.5 billion in federal aid. More than $630 million is for small business child care center assistance, nearly $460 million for household and community support programs, $830 million for health care providers for pandemic related stability funds, and $250 million for local governments with COVID-19 costs.
Illinois’ five state employee retirement funds will get more than $8.6 billion from the general revenue fund. That's about 20 percent of the state's general revenue spending.