(The Center Square) – With just five days before the end of the Illinois Legislature’s spring session, there’s still no budget for the public to review.
Neither state Rep. Will Davis, D-Hazel Crest, nor state Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, could say when budget details would be released of if there’d be time for public review and feedback.
The Pritzker administration didn’t respond to a request for comment on when it thinks budget details should be made available for public review.
But, Demmer said there’s more revenue than expected. He said the governor and Democrats need to drop the motion to do away with a slew of tax credits.
“Several of them were bipartisan negotiated products that the House Democrats voted for, the governor himself signed into law and touted the benefits of,” Demmer said. “These are tools to make Illinois more competitive.”
Gov. J.B. Pritzker has targeted nine different tax incentive programs like the Blue Collar Jobs Act and the Invest In Kids scholarship program in an effort to generate nearly $1 billion in additional revenue for the state.
Despite there being better-than-expected revenue and billions of dollars in federal pandemic funds, Davis said Republicans need to cooperate in helping plug what he said is a budget deficit.
“It would be better if they engaged us on the front end to help us settle that question versus taking a pass and then allowing Democrats to just come in and take all the heat for whatever decisions are made on the revenue, particularly when they get the benefit of those decisions,” Davis said.
The state’s budget is expected to appropriate around $42 billion in state funds. There are also billions of dollars expected from the federal government for the coming fiscal year that begins July 1.
The lawmakers are also evaluating their options of how to spend more than $8 billion in federal taxpayer funds coming to Illinois for lawmakers to be appropriated over the next few years.
Demmer said the best use of the federal funds is to refill the state’s unemployment trust fund.
“We have about $5 billion in debt in that trust fund today because of the surge in unemployment that happened as a result of COVID,” Demmer said. “We should use these one-time funds to directly pay down a COVID-related debt.”
The state’s unemployment skyrocketed in the spring of 2020 following Pritzker’s stay-at-home order, limiting businesses that his administration deemed nonessential from being open to the public.
Davis said lawmakers have to be prudent with the federal tax dollars to not run afoul of how they can be spent or the state could be on the hook down the road for any possible misappropriation.
“So this is where we want to be careful, but to the extent in which if there’s an opportunity to repay some of the borrowing, we have an interest in doing that as well,” Davis said.
Recent federal guidance for how stimulus money can be used by states prohibits paying down debt, with the exception of COVID-related expenses, like unemployment benefits.
Pritzker had previously said he planned to use federal funds to pay back around $2 billion in borrowing from a federal fund during COVID, but that’s prohibited by the recent guidelines. His administration last week announced it will pay that debt down with better-than-expected revenues.
“Thanks to a number of factors, including the state’s investments in key economic sectors like small businesses and childcare providers, Illinois’ revenues have come in stronger than expected,” the administration said in a statement. “This overperformance, in tandem with effective cash management by the Illinois Office of Comptroller, will be instrumental in paying down the outstanding federal debt.”