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Reactions from state representatives to the Pritzker budget address

Reactions from state representatives to the Pritzker budget address

House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago)

From a news release:

“After four years of unprecedented crisis, we are still uncovering the extent of the damage to our state’s budget. Bruce Rauner’s budget crisis has left us with billions of dollars in unpaid bills, frayed our social service infrastructure, and squandered $1 billion on late payment penalties instead of funding our schools, health care and critical human services. Without the efforts of House Democrats and some rank-and-file Republicans who worked together to make tough decisions and end Rauner’s crisis, the damage would have been even worse.

“Amid the challenges we heard spelled out today, we also heard that we now have a governor who recognizes the magnitude of these challenges and will work with us to address them. House Democrats stand ready to work with Governor Pritzker and our Republican colleagues, bring all options to the table for honest negotiation, make the tough decisions, continue to stand strong and protect critical human services and quality schools, and move Illinois forward.”  

 

Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs)

From a news release:

“The governor’s  budget today shows the true need for bipartisan solutions to fix Illinois’ many fiscal challenges. We cannot tax, borrow and spend our way out of this deficit as the governor has proposed. Illinois families deserve a focus on reform, including our out-of-control pension costs and sky high property taxes, and not a penny more in new taxes or fees. My caucus is prepared to work with the governor on crafting a balanced budget that reflects our priorities and moves Illinois forward.”

 

Representative Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield)

From a news release:

“I came away from the governor’s remarks with doubts as to how this plan will really make a difference in our state’s finances. It paints a picture filled with rainbows and unicorns by using sources of revenue that don’t even exist yet. This is an unrealistic block to build the future of our state on, and one that I believe will fall short of Governor Pritzker’s lofty expectations.

“Our fiscal problems are extensive, and will not be solved overnight, but we can work to lay the foundation for real reforms.  We cannot prolong our pension payments and push these obligations down the road for later generations to deal with. Shortchanging our pension payment by over $800 million is not the answer, and ignoring this obligation will only add to our troubles down the road.  It’s time to make those difficult decisions now and solve the problems in front of us.”

 

Representative Avery Bourne (R-Raymond)

From a news release:

“I am very disappointed in Governor Pritzker’s first budget address. His budget proposal is unfortunately more of the same: more spending, higher taxes, and new debt. To make matters worse, Pritzker has proposed issuing new pension debt and delaying payments to our state’s pension systems. That could jeopardize the retirement of thousands of teachers, state workers, and other public employees. With a $3.2 billion budget deficit and over $15 billion in unpaid bills, Illinois taxpayers cannot afford new programs.

It is up to the Legislature to work together to pass a balanced budget that makes our full pension payment, responsibly prioritizes our spending, and protects taxpayers. I am committed to working to pass a truly balanced budget, but we must reject the political posturing, rising spending, and continual push for tax increases.”

Pritzker delivered the roughly 45-minute speech before a joint session of the Illinois House and Senate. The focus was on keeping campaign promises rather than tackling the major challenges our state faces. His budget proposal relies heavily on major progressive policy changes to bring in new tax money and on pushing back pension payments. The biggest push for taxation came with his call for a graduated income tax that will add to the total tax burden of this state and will not be possible unless the public votes to pass it as a constitutional amendment during the 2020 general election - meaning that promised spending from those new tax dollars cannot be realized until after the 2020 election.

 

Representative Tim Butler (R-Springfield)

From a news release:

“It’s surprising that the governor would acknowledge the $3.2 billion structural deficit on the one hand, yet propose to close it with similar gimmicks decried by my Democratic colleagues in the past on the other hand. This effectively makes his proposal $2.6 billion out of balance for the fiscal year.

“However, I am most concerned that this budget does nothing to address our current backlog of unpaid bills and proposes to further exacerbate our long-term pension debt with similar pseudo-pension holidays that failed under Gov. Blagojevich. Reducing pension payments and extending the funding ramp by seven years will ultimately add billions of dollars in more cost. This approach is exactly what has led to the record debts we are facing today.

“Fortunately, this is only a proposal and I hope these concerns, and others, can be addressed as the General Assembly negotiates over the coming weeks and months. If not, it will make it that much more difficult to improve our fragile economic situation and stop of the flow of people out of Illinois.”

 

Representative Andrew Chesney (R-Freeport)

From a news release:

“Illinois is losing population and, unfortunately, what we heard today is a tax-and-spend policy, peppered with borrowing gimmicks, and proposed sale of long-term assets to meet short-term spending. As expected, there was a fair amount of Governor Pritzker pandering to the progressive wing of his party.”

“It is going to take many years of intense fiscal discipline to dig Illinois out of the hole dug by 20 years of Democrat leadership over the budgeting process. 

Regarding the Governor’s comments on pension reform, Chesney cautioned, “We should approach his ideas cautiously to ensure we are not simply robbing Peter to pay Paul.  A return to Blagojevich’s failed budget strategy of pension holidays is worrisome, to say the least.”

 

Representative C.D. Davidsmeyer (R-Jacksonville)

From a news release:

“The governor of Illinois is constitutionally required to deliver a balanced budget based on current law and current revenues. 

Unfortunately, after declaring that the state has a $3 billion budget deficit and a $15 billion backlog of unpaid bills, Governor Pritzker promised more spending, more fees, continued underfunding of pensions, and more taxes.

We need a balanced budget based on reality, not more political promises funded on the backs of working people. 

The governor stated that Illinois should be paying $4.9 billion in pension payments, but will be required to pay $9.1 billion (due to pension holidays under Governor Blagojevich). 

What’s his answer? Continue to underfund them. Stretch the payment out for a longer time, increasing the state’s payments by estimates of over $100 billion over the next 50 years.

On top of this, the state will have paid off pension bonds and will have an additional $1 billion. Instead of continuing to put this into pensions, he has proposed new spending on new programs.

As Illinoisans, we have already seen how this plan plays out, and it always ends with unfulfilled promises and increased taxes that we cannot afford!

Expecting tax payers to foot the bill for politicians’ spending is not right and I will not support it.”

 

Representative Brad Halbrook (R-Shelbyville)

From a news release:

“The one thing Democrats and Republicans should agree on is the severity of the financial problems facing our state and I think the governor is acutely aware of the state financial issues but the budget he presented does not seem to acknowledge the financial realities of our state.

The governor focused on all the new ways he is going to spend taxpayer money. I certainly agree that education funding and funding for MAP grants are important, but how we pay for these cost increases is a vital question we really did not get answered today.

Of course, the governor presented ideas such as recreational marijuana and legalized sports betting as ways to pay for all this spending, but none of these sources of revenue are even legal right now.

We are once again focusing on the wrong things when it comes to the state budget. I am all for prioritizing education and other worthwhile budget expenses, but funding for these budget items should be based on money we have – not money we think we are going to get. For too long, our budget process has been based on fantasy numbers and not on real math and the end result has been disastrous.

There was little in his speech about ways to grow our economy or to lower the cost of government. Raising taxes is not going to grow our economy. Illinois lost 45,000 residents last year – the most by far of any Midwest state – and there is nothing the governor said today that is going to make that number better. In fact, what he said today is only going to make that number worse. We needed vision and leadership and good ideas. Instead, all we got is more taxes and more spending. Very disappointing.”

 

Representative Jeff Keicher (R-Sycamore)

From a news release:

“I was encouraged to hear the governor emphasize higher education, specifically a 5 percent increase in funding for our state universities and community colleges, as well as an increased commitment of $50 million to the MAP grant program, which would help as many as 15,000 more students afford to attend college.  Strengthening our commitment to higher education and investing in college affordability is one area where Democrats and Republicans can find common ground and deliver results. Unfortunately, I was concerned by other aspects of the governor’s speech, which failed to offer solutions to provide property tax relief or embrace needed reforms to make Illinois a more welcoming place for new job creators to locate or enable existing job creators to grow and thrive. Hopefully the governor will make room for bipartisan ideas to move the state’s priorities in that direction while we work together to achieve our mutual goals to strengthen NIU, our community colleges and higher education throughout Illinois.”

 

Representative Camille Lilly, House Chair of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus (D-Oak Park)

From a news release:

“Illinois faces many challenges as a result of Gov. Rauner’s disastrous tenure as governor. While there is a lot of work to be done, Governor Pritzker’s speech made it clear we now have a governor who is ready to work with us to address these challenges.

 “The governor’s priorities reflect many of my own commitments, including adequate funding for our schools, investing in safer communities and rebuilding services for those in great need, which were decimated by the past administration at crisis levels.

 “I look forward to working with the governor and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to address the major challenges we face, and pass a responsible budget that reflects the values of our community, the people.”

 

Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena)

From a news release

"What Governor Pritzker seems to have forgotten is that the same budget gimmicks and misleading revenue proposals he has outlined led to the budget impasse under the previous governor who finally said no to an unbalanced budget. While Governor Rauner also presented imperfect budgets, he at least acknowledged the need to reduce the largest areas of state spending.

“This governor only addresses collecting more money. Governor Pritzker’s fantasy budget plan relies primarily on a so-called “fair tax system” that is not only a misnomer, but at its earliest could not be implemented for years. This transition, which will without a doubt impact Illinois’ middle class, is in addition to a number of new taxes he wants to implement.

“Disappointingly, but not surprisingly, his budget relies on a lot of speculative new revenue applied to an already overtaxed populace, and plans to address our pensions with tried and true failures of the past like new pension holidays and pension ramp extensions.

“The people of Illinois are crying out for tax relief, not new taxes, and they are demanding their elected officials address the state’s fiscal crisis, not kick the can down the road on pensions and other significant fiscal liabilities. If Illinois is going to push forward, we need to do it with austerity and innovative ideas, both of which were unfortunately lacking in today’s address."

 

Representative David McSweeney (R-Barrington Hills)

From an interview conducted by Rebecca Anzel, Capitol News Illinois

“Taxes, taxes and more taxes. The Pritzker program is based on major tax increases. He’s going to try to kill middle-class families in this state. They’re already moving out of this state. What I mean by kill is drive them out of this state. The so-called progressive tax is a jobs tax; that’s what the entire program is based on, is raising taxes across the board. And again, the minimum wage last week that was passed, that’s going to lead to automation, increased use of kiosks, that’s going to kill jobs and again, families are leaving this state. We lost population, we lost a congressional seat. Stop killing the families of this state with higher taxes. Stop driving them out of this state. I’m going to fight this progressive tax, which is really a jobs tax. This is a joke. This is business as usual. This is one of the worst speeches I ever heard in my entire life because what it’s based on is the premise that he wants to tax families and he wants to kill jobs.

“So the pension shifts is the same old games of just moving things around, it’s like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Instead of actually making changes, doing a constitutional amendment like Arizona, just continue business as usual. The sports gambling I’ll look at; I need to see the details of the bill, need to make sure that insiders aren’t benefiting, need to make sure it’s fair. And I’m opposed to the recreational marijuana. The FDA doesn’t support it, and I also don’t believe it’s the right thing to do for Illinois — look what’s happened to Colorado. But this is a terrible speech. I think the governor has some tough days ahead. He’ll probably get his big spending, high-tax package out of the General Assembly, but I’m very doubtful that 60 percent of the people in the state of Illinois next year will support this.”

 

Rep. Chris Miller (R-Oakland)

From a news release

“The governor’s budget is not austere as he and some others are calling it. Austere means reductions, cut-backs, and belt-tightening or at least holding the line on spending, not increasing spending!

“The governor’s speech highlighted raising $170 million in fees and licensing for legalizing recreational marijuana use, $200 million in fees and taxes on a new sports betting law, and $390 million in a new tax on insurance companies that will be passed on to hard-working families.

“Taxing vices like e-cigarettes and vaping products, encouraging drug use by legalizing recreational marijuana and expanding gambling to include betting on sports are not sound economic principles for a cash flow for important programs for our schools and colleges.

“The governor was correct when he acknowledged that the fiscal mess we are in goes back many years during Democrat control. This budget shows the wrong path our state is on, and we need to oppose these radical proposals that attack our hard-working families, seniors and businesses in our state.”

 

Representative Tom Morrison (R-Palatine)

From a news release:

“While Governor Pritzker outlined his hopes for growth and sustainability, I heard no real reform proposals included in his address that will provide for that. Rather, today’s address largely ignored the major challenges our state faces by choosing to add more taxes, increase spending, and ignore our current obligations in the state pension system.

 “Illinois has an incredible amount of debt, which we cannot simply tax our way out of.  The current tax burden is already too heavy for many in our state, and Governor Prtizker’s recommendations will only add to that weight. Budgeting in the State of Illinois has never been easy, and this fiscal year will be no different.  I am ready to face our challenges and work alongside my colleagues to fight for a budget our residents deserve.”

 

Rep. Anna Moeller (D-Elgin)

“My overall impression about the governor’s speech was pretty positive. I think he continues to demonstrate to me that he is on the side of working families and the people that I represent in my district. His priorities in raising the minimum wage, reforming our tax code so that the tax burden doesn’t fall on middle- and lower-class families, and investing in education, making higher education more accessible to middle-class families, and investing in human services – I think that’s all the right direction. [Those are] priorities that people in my district have.”

 

Representative Mike Murphy (R-Springfield)

From a news release:

“The bottom line is that Governor Pritzker’s budget priorities announced today included a lot of spending, but virtually nothing about what needs to be our top priority for long-term success - creating new and better job opportunities for our families.

“More good jobs are the key to lifting up families that are struggling, and pumping more revenue into state and local coffers to fund schools, infrastructure and needed services. I want to work with the governor and my colleagues across the aisle this spring to promote ways to help families with better job opportunities, … not hurt them with increased taxes and fees.”

 

Rep. Allen Skillicorn (R-East Dundee)

From a news release:

“First off, the governor clearly ignored the constitutional provision saying you cannot add new revenues that do not exist into a budget. So this budget is not balanced. I want to make sure people know. This is not balanced. There are revenues in there that have not passed, that do not exist. So I don’t know what he’s talking about. He’s also talking about a massive tax increase. He said himself, hundreds of millions of dollars. This is not just going to be something just on the rich, this is going to be a massive tax increase on the middle class. He also mentioned shorting pensions. It was wrong when [Blagojevich] did it, and it’s going to be wrong when J.B. Pritzker does it.”

 

Representative Joe Sosnowski (R-Rockford)

From a news release:

“With Illinois facing a yearly exodus of nearly 50,000 residents, I'm not sure how $5 billion in new taxes proposed by the governor is going to help. The governor offered an old playbook we’ve seen before in Springfield for years - tax, borrow and spend. Governor Pritzker’s pension plan relies on more borrowing, pseudo-pension holidays and kicking the can further down the road. In fact, these are the same pension gimmicks that Rod Blagojevich relied on for his phony budgets for years.

“The governor’s budget offers no property tax relief. It does nothing to help job creators. It does nothing to pay down the state’s $8 billion backlog of unpaid bills. Unfortunately, this was a speech based on keeping campaign promises and increased spending instead of dealing with the fiscal realities of our state.”

 

Representative Ryan Spain (R-Peoria)

From a news release:

“Illinois desperately needs economic growth.  We must also stop the exodus of people from our state as families seek better opportunities in other locations. Unfortunately, the governor’s message focused on raising taxes yet again on the hard-working people of Illinois.

“I was disappointed that the governor did not mention downstate pension consolidation as a way to save management fees and reduce costs for downstate public pension systems. I have sponsored a package of bills backed by cities and villages across Illinois to do just that. I don’t agree with every element the governor is proposing to shore up pensions, but consolidation is an opportunity for common-ground while we save local governments money.”

“While I look forward to working with Governor Pritzker on areas which we agree, there is a sobering fiscal reality that must be recognized as well.  New spending, as is being proposed by the governor in his proposed budget, does not seem in line with that fiscal reality,” Spain concluded.

 

Representative Dan Swanson (R-Alpha)

From a news release:

“I appreciate that the governor described his perspective as ‘bold optimism.’ However, I am very concerned about his comments about changing Illinois’ Constitution to create a progressive income tax scheme.  I understand moving this direction is the only possible way he can pay for the $1.121 billion in new spending this year and the mushrooming spending to follow further into Pritzker’s administration, but Illinoisans are sick of kicking the can down the road without addressing the real cost-drivers of our out-of-control state spending.”

“The reality is fewer and fewer Illinoisans are being asked to pay for more and more services to those deemed disadvantaged by progressive members of the Legislature. Many of those being asked to pick up the bill are seeing no benefit to themselves in continuing to do so and are leaving our state. The governor’s speech and agenda seemingly does little to negate that problem.”

 

Representative Dan Ugaste (R-Geneva)

From a news release:

“With Illinois’ history of budgeting, I am especially wary of the governor’s plan that he delivered today.  It seems to be more of the same - increasing taxes, borrowing and kicking the can down the road that has already gotten our state into its fiscal mess. To right our finances, and adequately recover from the $3.2 billion budget deficit and $15 million in unpaid bills, we need real reforms. I didn’t hear anything today that addresses property tax relief, or provides a realistic path to funding our pension systems.

“Getting Illinois back on track is not an easy feat, but not making these difficult decisions will only push our problems on those generations to come. I am not here to contribute to our state’s problems, but rather want to be part of the solution that will build the foundations for a better future for all Illinoisans. I hope that as we continue through legislative session in Springfield, my concerns and those of my colleagues can be addressed through bipartisan dialogue.”

 

Representative Tom Weber (R-Lake Villa)

From a news release

“I’m glad the governor acknowledged the dire position of the state’s finances, but his proposal not only fails to close the $3.2 billion annual deficit he acknowledged, it fails to address the billions in unpaid bills and adds to the long-term pension debt.

“His proposals to close the structural deficit rely on short-term gimmicks, like the one-time sale of recreational marijuana licenses and the expansion of video gaming. Both of which are only expected to generate $259 million and I’m not sold on the idea that introducing these into our communities is a good way to solve our budget problems. By taking this approach, it means this $39 billion proposal is out of balance by $2.6 billion, which also makes it unconstitutional.

“Most surprising though, the governor proposes to end increased employee pension contributions and extend the ramp funding of the $130 billion pension debt by seven years. Extending the ramp to fund the pension debt is no different than the ‘pension holidays’ used by Gov. Blagojevich that directly contributed to the problem we are facing today.

“Unfortunately, this budget relies on gimmicks and the same failed policies that created the record debts facing Illinois. If past experience is anything to go by, more families and jobs will be driven out of our state and we simply cannot afford that.”

 

Representative Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego)

From a news release:

“Unfortunately, there was nothing in the governor’s speech about how to make Illinois a better place to create jobs and opportunities for working families, or provide property tax relief for the thousands of families who need it here in the Fox Valley and across Illinois. It was all about how to tax more and spend more without any government reforms whatsoever. The governor offered more of the same failed fiscal policies that have resulted in record state debt and have driven families and jobs out of Illinois. Moving forward, I will work with the governor and my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to move the needle of state priorities toward the areas of property tax relief and making Illinois a more welcoming place for the men and women who create jobs for families in today’s economy.”

 

Rep. Blaine Wilhour (R-Beecher City)

From a news release:

“The idea that this budget is balanced is laughable. Here we have a governor with a straight face telling us that even though we have a $3.5 billion budget hole and even though we have $8 billion in unpaid bills – we still can have a balanced budget and even increase spending on the school funding formula and increase MAP grant funding.

“If something sounds too good to be true – it usually is.

This is a fairytale budget built around promises of revenue from

funding sources that don’t even exist yet. Recreational marijuana has not been legalized. Online sports betting has not been legalized.

“We are in a huge financial mess because politicians like JB Pritzker propose these “pie in the sky” budget proposals based on revenue projections that are pure fantasy. The revenue projections may be fantasy, but the spending is very real. We can’t pay the bills we have now, and we are increasing spending?

“We need to have revenue projections that are based on actual sources of revenue – not revenue sources yet to come. We also need to get serious about spending cuts, which is why I favor the idea of having a spending cap in Springfield.

“We cannot continue to allow government growth to outpace our economic growth. We need a spending cap that ties the growth of government to a rolling average of economic growth. Hardworking families can’t outspend their incomes. Why should we allow this irresponsible behavior from our government?

“Another part of the governor’s speech revolved around the progressive income tax. This is code for a big tax increase on the people of Illinois. This tax is supposedly directed at the wealthiest Illinois residents.

“Wealthy people can pick up and leave the state at any time. It is the poorest among us who cannot leave. Enacting a tax to target the rich is not going to work the way the Governor seems to think it will. It will be middle class families that will be hit the hardest by the progressive income tax.

“Finally, we did not hear anything about reform today. Nothing about pension reform. Nothing about term limits. Nothing about business reforms such as workers’ compensation reform. Just more of the same policies that are bankrupting our state.

 

Rep. Michael Zaleweski (D-Riverside)

“I thought the speech was good -- in the next few months, the General Assembly is going to start taking this all in. We'll take a deep dive into what the governor wants out of this project, and I think some permutation of [all Pritzker's proposed revenue generators] will have an opportunity to pass.”

 

House Appropriations Committee chairs Luis Arroyo, Kelly Cassidy, La Shawn K. Ford, Robyn Gabel, Rita Mayfield and Robert ‘Bob’ Rita released the following statement Wednesday following Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s budget address:

“Governor Pritzker’s budget address was a sobering reflection of the real challenges facing our state after four years of Bruce Rauner’s neglect and mismanagement. The Rauner crisis has left us with a $3.2 billion structural deficit, and $14 billion in unpaid bills. Eight credit downgrades in just four years leave us on the verge of junk bond status. And the consequences are falling on those who can least afford it, from seniors, to children in need, to elderly veterans.

“House Democrats will continue to prioritize funding for essential services, and ensure that our most vulnerable residents receive the resources they need. This is the first of many steps as we work to restore Illinois’ fiscal house over several years, and with that will come many tough but necessary decisions. We will continue reaching across the aisle and working with our Republican colleagues to craft bipartisan budgets that set Illinois on a path to financial stability.

“Governor Pritzker’s straightforward assessment of the challenges Illinois faces is a welcome departure from Rauner’s years of neglect. While a lot of negotiation remains to be done, the governor’s proposal shares our commitment to funding our most critical services and lifting up our local communities by creating good-paying jobs and rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure. This is a starting point in a discussion of how we invest in education, repair our human services network, and ultimately create a better Illinois.

“As we begin the process of making a new budget and addressing these challenges, we come to the table prepared to work with the governor and legislators on both sides of the aisle with the goal of passing a responsible, balanced budget on time.”

 

 

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Jeff Rogers

Jeff RogersJeff Rogers

Jeff has more than 30 years’ experience working for newspapers as a reporter and editor. He was the editor of daily newspapers in northern Illinois and Wisconsin before joining as Capitol News Illinois’ editor, where he oversees the news service’s development, growth and fundraising. He grew up in Lanark in northwest Illinois and has a journalism degree from Bradley University in Peoria.

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