Lawmakers worked into the early morning hours and surfaced with a $42 billion approved Illinois State budget. The one-time budget does not include tax or fee increases for individual Illinois residents. The new $42 billion Illinois State budget would cover the state’s mandatory payment for government pensions. It would also provide a $350 million payment to schools. It would pay off almost $3 billion in debt and support a $100 million affordable housing grant.
Senator Elgie Sims, Senate Appropriations Committee Chair, said the budget helps the state and its residents. “It puts us on the path for fiscal responsibility into a brighter day for Illinois. This budget absolutely funds our priorities because we are fighting for individuals who cannot fight for themselves,” said Sims. Illinois House Speaker Chris Welch spoke on the need for a return to Springfield as soon as possible, noting that more work is still to be done. He referred to the long-running session as a success, stating, “I think we had a very successful session. I think this is one of the most successful sessions around here in a long time.”
Welch replaced former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan. In January, he became the state’s the first Black Speaker of the House. He assured both the House and Senate that they would work in unison and that a “new day” for the Illinois General Assembly was to come.
During the Illinois State budget debates, Republican House member Tom Demmer said it is more of the same. “We’ve talked many times in this chamber about it being a new day. The only new day is going to happen in five minutes when the clock strikes midnight because what we’re seeing on this floor is the same dark, old days that we’ve struggled under for years,” said Demmer.
The Illinois Chamber of Commerce also expressed its displeasure. They believe that the assembly’s decision to end corporate tax breaks will result in a loss of jobs.
Despite working well into the morning, some hot-bed issues were still left on the table when the session finally ended around 3 a.m. Tuesday morning. Among the unfinished business is an energy package, an elected school board for Chicago Public Schools, gun licensing regulations, and police reform. When asked about the issues still left unsettled, Welch replied, “You’ve heard me say this time and time again. Diversity is the strength of our state. And diversity is the strength of the House Democratic Caucus and the Senate Democratic Caucus. We’re not always going to agree. Sometimes we disagree. And that’s because of our great diversity. And we have to be proud of that.” The new Illinois State budget awaits Governor J.B. Pritzker’s final approval.
Paula J. Shelton is a freelance writer and journalist based in Chicago. Find her on social media @beboldshineon.