clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

House Republicans to Pritzker: Base budget on reality — ‘not wishful thinking’

Gov. J.B. Pritzker is scheduled to deliver his annual budget address to the General Assembly via a live video feed at noon Wednesday. So far, he has revealed little about the budget he plans to propose for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, left, in 2018; Gov. J.B. Pritzker, right, in September.
House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, left, in 2018; Gov. J.B. Pritzker, right, in September.
Rich Hein/Sun-Times file; Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP-file

SPRINGFIELD — State House Republican leaders on Monday called on Gov. J.B. Pritzker to propose a truly balanced budget when he unveils his spending blueprint Wednesday, arguing the Democratic governor should not count on money that may never materialize.

That’s what happened in May when lawmakers adopted the current fiscal year’s budget. That plan called for $42.9 billion in General Revenue Fund spending, but it was based on the assumption that Congress would pass an aid package for state and local governments and that Illinois voters would approve Pritzker’s proposed constitutional amendment to allow for a graduated income tax.

The graduated tax amendment failed in the November election, and Congress so far has not passed a stimulus package that includes aid to state and local governments, although the new Biden administration has proposed one.

“The Illinois Constitution cannot be more clear about the responsibilities of the executive branch,” House Minority Leader Jim Durkin said during a virtual news conference Monday. “Article 8, Section 2 and 2(b) say that the governor presents a budget that must balance spending with estimated revenue available for that fiscal year. Estimated revenue, not wishful thinking.”

House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, left, and Deputy Minority Leader Tom Demmer discuss the state’s budget situation ahead of Gov. JB Pritzker’s budget address during a virtual news conference Monday.
House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, left, and Deputy Minority Leader Tom Demmer discuss the state’s budget situation ahead of Gov. JB Pritzker’s budget address during a virtual news conference Monday.
Screen image from Zoom.us

In response to the drop in revenue caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the failure of the proposed graduated income tax, Pritzker announced in mid-December he was ordering more than $700 million in spending reductions along with plans to borrow $2 billion through the Federal Reserve’s Municipal Liquidity Facility. Those were two steps aimed at tackling a budget deficit that could still exceed $1 billion for the current fiscal year.

According to the latest monthly report by the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, base revenues flowing into the state have actually been running about 6.2% above estimates as individual income tax and sales tax receipts have come in better than expected.

State spending, however, also has exceeded budgeted amounts, primarily due to heavier than expected Medicaid expenses, which are partially paid for with federal funds.

Pritzker is scheduled to deliver his annual budget message to the General Assembly via a live video feed at noon Wednesday.

So far, he has revealed little about the budget he plans to propose for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. In a brief email last week, his office said the $700 million in spending cuts would be carried forward into the next year and he will propose closing about $900 million in what he calls “corporate tax loopholes.” It also said he would not propose an increase in individual income or sales taxes.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker unveils his graduated income tax plan during a news conference in 2019.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker unveils his graduated income tax plan during a news conference in 2019.
Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register file

The governor also said that for the second straight year, he will not propose a general increase in K-12 education funding, which makes up the largest share of general state spending, although he does expect a large increase in federal aid for public schools. State law calls for adding $350 million to the K-12 funding formula each year.

But that still leaves a deficit of roughly $3 billion for the upcoming fiscal year, and the governor’s office has not said how Pritzker plans to fill that gap.

Deputy Minority Leader Tom Demmer noted during the news conference that due to the pandemic, the budget lawmakers passed in May gave the governor unprecedented authority to shift money between agencies and line items and to direct the spending of billions of dollars in federal disaster relief aid, and he said he believes this year lawmakers should reassert their own authority.

House Deputy Republican Leader Tom Demmer of Dixon
House Deputy Republican Leader Tom Demmer of Dixon in 2019.
John O’Connor/AP file

“Last year, the state was on the receiving end of billions of dollars from the federal government and again, it was it was programs that were overseen by the administration through emergency rules and through an unprecedented level of appropriation authority that was unchecked and unreviewed by the General Assembly,” the Dixon Republican said. “We must reengage our role as a coequal branch of government to provide the kinds of checks and balances that the people of Illinois expect.”

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.