Black and Latino caucuses voice support for proposed budget
State Sen. Robert Peters, Senate chair of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, is pictured in a file photo. (Credit: Blueroomstream.com)
‘Good place to begin the process’ of budgeting, Senate Black Caucus chair says
By BETH HUNDSDORFER
Capitol News Illinois
Members of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus and Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus voiced their overall support for Gov. GB Pritzker’s budget in separate news conferences Wednesday, but said they will continue to push to address the lack of access to health care, affordable housing, economic development, and high quality education for Black and brown communities in Illinois.
Illinois Senate Black Caucus Chair Robert Peters, D-Chicago, and Latino Legislative Caucus Chair Sen. Karina Villa, D-West Chicago, said Pritzker’s budget is a fair starting point.
“This budget is at a good place, and considering the circumstances, it reflects a more optimistic outlook than where we were a year ago,” Peters said. “The budget proposal certainly takes into account the improved circumstances of our state’s economic and fiscal situations, and it’s a good place to begin the process of drafting our first budget that puts us on the road to economic recovery during this pandemic.”
Villa and Peters, in separate appearances, praised the investment of $240 million in new money for the Reimagine Public Safety Act for increased funding for community-based violence intervention programs, behavioral health programs and trauma recovery.
“We have a unique opportunity to heal trauma, repair harm and create safety for communities who have been faced with too much pain for way too long,” Peters said.
Peters also pushed for the full implementation of the SAFE-T Act, a criminal justice reform passed in January last year.
The proposed budget includes funding for the Illinois Supreme Court’s requested $26 million to establish comprehensive pretrial services in the 63 counties that lack such services. It includes another $10 million in new appropriations from the Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board to pay for the obligations associated with the SAFE-T Act.
“We are improving public safety, supporting better law enforcement and working to end systemic injustice at the same time,” he said.
Peters said he supported housing assistance that includes $10 million for eviction mitigation, and $40 million for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
Low unemployment rates and rising revenues show signs of a growing economy, but Villa said families are experiencing the lingering effects of the pandemic.
She praised a one-year proposed vacation on the 1 percent grocery tax, as well as a proposal to cancel an anticipated 2.2 cent increase to the state’s motor fuel tax for the current fiscal year.
Members of the Black Caucus said the budget should result in real and transformative change to close the economic gaps for minorities.
“One of the things I like is we will be addressing healthcare disparities, ensuring economic viability by retaining and creating jobs, investing in small businesses, which is the backbone of our local economies, supporting education,” said Rep. Nick Smith, D-Chicago.
The COVID-19 pandemic also underscored inequities in housing and health care in the Latino community, Villa said.
“The reality is that we still have a very long way to go when it comes to recovering. The pandemic further uncovered a dire need to access health care in our community,” Villa said.
Leaders of the two caucuses said they will continue to work to improve opportunities for their constituents as they negotiate the budget.
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.