Legislators left Springfield toward the end of May with a record-high budget in place for the fiscal year that begins July 1 of this year. The budget and its implementation document, commonly known as the BIMP, are two of more than 500 bills that now await final action by the Governor. He can sign them, veto them in part or in full, or just let them sit, at which point they become law after 60 days of non-action by the Executive Branch of government.
The Fiscal Year 2024 budget includes a spend of $50.6 billion, with estimated revenues coming in at $50.7 billion. That leaves a buffer of 0.2%.
While there are some good elements in the new budget, the negatives far outweigh the positives, and when it came to a vote, there was bipartisan opposition. This opposition came from every Republican in the House and Senate and even a handful of Democrats who also felt the budget priorities did not align with what most Illinoisans are looking for from their state government.
Hidden within the pages of the 3,425-page budget and the accompanying 898-page Budget Implementation Bill (BIMP) is hundreds of millions of dollars toward free healthcare and other programs for illegal immigrants. Governor Pritzker’s own financial analysts put a price tag of $1.1 billion on this free healthcare program for illegals. In spite of his analysts’ cost estimate, the budget our Governor is touting as “balanced” only funds the healthcare program at $550 million. Gov. Pritzker has said no one currently eligible will be removed, so it’s pretty ridiculous to think the cost of the program will be half of what his own agency claims.
The budget also includes $110 million toward welcoming centers for non-citizens. Operated through the Illinois Department of Human Services, these centers serve as a one-stop center to connect non-citizens with taxpayer-funded services. In addition, the budget includes a $42.5 million outlay to assist those crossing into the United States illegally who are seeking asylum in Chicago.
The FY 2024 spending plan also included a 5% pay hike for legislators. This pay increase will cost the taxpayers of Illinois $752,250 in FY 2024. This is on top of a nearly 17% pay hike the majority party gave themselves just six months ago.
While the majority party made sure they got their raises and that illegal immigrants were well cared for, they refused to extend the Invest in Kids Tax Credit Scholarship Program. This program provides funds that allow lower-income students in underperforming schools to improve their chances of academic success by moving to a different school. It is an incredibly successful program that literally changes lives. Since its inception, the program has raised over $227 million in private funds that have been used to distribute over 30,000 scholarships. But without legislative intervention, the program ends on December 31, 2023.
Additionally, the need for meaningful, substantive property tax relief in Illinois is critical, yet the FY 2024 budget does nothing to ease that burden. The largest part of every property tax bill is for the funding of local schools. The Governor is currently touring Illinois and touting hundreds of millions in new funding for Education. This is good news, but every new dollar allocated for school funding should be met with a corresponding decrease in the amount of personal property taxes people pay for their schools. That’s not happening, and those living in the seven-county area included in the 45th Senate District continue to pay some of the highest property tax rates in the state.
Still, there is reason for hope. The fact that even a few Democrats voted against the budget suggests that some in the majority party are beginning to realize their misplaced and tax-and-spend priorities need to change. And for those who have the political courage to try and foster that change, I stand ready to work with them to put Illinois on a much better path.