On Wednesday, Governor JB Pritzker presented his annual Budget Address where he outlined a Fiscal Year 2021 spending plan that increases state operating expenditures by $2.2 billion for the budget year that begins on July 1, 2020.
The Governor included in his budget many promises for funding, but only upon voters approving his graduated income tax proposal in November. According to State Representative Avery Bourne (R-Morrisonville), over $200 million of the proposed school funding for FY21 is tied to passage of the graduated income tax. “Holding $1.4 billion in spending hostage- including money for schools- is a disingenuous bullying tactic to try to justify more taxes,” she said.
Bourne continued, “In his budget address, the Governor is walking away from having a balanced budget with no new taxes. He is holding Illinois’ fiscal future hostage until the passage of his graduated income tax proposal. He presented a rosy picture of the state if people support his Constitutional Amendment to tax many Illinoisans at a higher rate. He contrasted it with a ‘doomsday’ scenario where the delivery of state services would be negatively affected if the amendment fails.”
Bourne said she believes the Governor’s threat to cut spending across the board could actually backfire. “Republicans have been asking for fiscal restraint and budget cuts for years,” said Bourne. “Additionally, regardless of what voters say about the Governor’s graduated income tax, Illinois is already bringing in the most revenue in State history. We should be able to construct a balanced, responsible budget on the current revenue levels. Trying to justify more taxes is ridiculous and irresponsible.”
The Governor also allocated funds to account for the rise in the minimum wage for state employees, but Bourne claimed the number used in the budget address was unrealistic and much lower than the true cost. “Last year the Pritzker administration said compliance with the minimum wage increase would cost $270 million in FY21 alone, meanwhile groups representing human service providers across the state have estimated the compliance cost to be closer to $400 million,” said Bourne. “Despite those published numbers last year, the Governor’s office contends that the minimum wage hike would cost only $68 million in general revenue funds in FY21. It’s an unrealistic figure that suggests the Pritzker administration is hiding the minimum wage hike’s true cost. We need clear and transparent numbers that accurately reflect real budget expenditures, particularly in relation to costs associated with the minimum wage. Making intentionally low cost estimates only perpetuates unbalanced budgets and a dishonest budgeting process.”
The spending plan represents the starting point of the budget process. Appropriation committees representing all key budget areas will meet over the next few months to hear testimony from departments seeking state funds, and the actual budget will be filed through a series of bills in May. The bills require passage in the House and Senate before they are sent to the Governor for his signature.