Reactions from state senators to the Pritzker budget address

Reactions from state senators to the Pritzker budget address

Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago)

From a press release:

“I give the governor credit for offering specifics. His plan is filled with ideas — real, doable, constitutional ideas. Now, whether or not they happen remains to be seen. That’s what the legislative process is for. But I commend Governor Pritzker for stepping forward today and presenting specifics. It’s a heck of a lot better than an empty “$4.6 billion by working together” line we saw in past years.

"This is a budget that’s about restoring stability and functionality to state government. That’s what we need to build for the future.

"Does it solve all of our problems? No. But it’s a vital step in the right direction.

"There’s increased school funding. That means more resources for local public schools everywhere in Illinois, and that means more opportunities for our children.

"There’s additional support for working families. You see it with the increased funding for child care assistance. Under this plan, a family of four making $50,000 would qualify for help with child care costs.

"The Chicago Veterans Home – a modern care facility for our veterans – would finally open.

"I give the governor credit for being creative, aggressive and specific in his budget, and I look forward to working with him to bring it to reality.”


Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady (R-Bloomington)

From a press release:

“The governor’s proposed budget represents a starting point for further negotiations.

"We heard a lot in his speech about more spending, more tax increases and concepts tried in the past. And while we as legislators now begin digging into the details, I have grave concerns about the pension plan and I remain opposed to a graduated income tax.

"The people of Illinois are demanding their elected officials address the fiscal crisis facing our state. If we are going to put Illinois on a path forward; then we need to learn from history, not repeat it.”


Senator Neil Anderson (R-Andalusia)

From a press release:

“I found items in the governor’s budget proposal that I support. I was glad to see that he prioritized spending for K-12 schools and higher education. However, I also have some major concerns.

“While the governor correctly addressed the problems Illinois faces, he failed to provide appropriate solutions. His solution was simply tax and borrow, repeating the mistakes of the past and kicking the can down the road. The residents and businesses in my district cannot afford another tax increase of any kind. If we keep adding to the burden placed on employers it’s going to be hard for them to stay in my district. Instead, they’ll cross the river and continue doing business in Iowa, where there’s a lower minimum wage and lower workers’ compensation costs.

“I recognize that this is just a starting point. Going forward I hope the governor’s rhetoric on bipartisanship matches his actions as we continue to address the budget needs of the state.”


Senator Omar Aquino (D-Chicago)

From a press release:

“Social services in my district and across the state are still reeling from the previous administration’s manufactured budget crisis. A budget is a moral document, and I am thrilled that moving forward we will exercise morality by serving the most vulnerable of our citizens.

“During the 2015-2017 budget impasse, essential social service agencies that rely on state funding went unpaid, forcing most to limit services and some to close their doors indefinitely. These services include homeless shelters, addiction treatment centers, domestic violence shelters and others.

“Not only is there a financial cost from the impasse, but a significant human cost as well. People could not access the services and help they needed and I am glad that this administration is going to make that a top priority. We are going to bring stability and dignity back to peoples’ lives.”


Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Shorewood)

From a press release:

“The state is meeting its promise to ensure our schools receive predictable and stable state dollars to help our school administrations make sound financial decisions that are in the best interests of our children.

“The governor’s budget plan outlines greater investment in early childhood education by proposing a $100 million increase for Early Childhood Block Grants and a $3.8 million boast for preschool ‘Birth through 5 Grant.’”

Bertino-Tarrant, who has worked to ensure the state invests in career and technical education, said she approves of the proposed $5 million new investment in career and technical education.

“Illinois businesses are ready to hire. Enhancing job training programs will expand the pool of solid job candidates to ensure these businesses are hiring from within our communities.”

During her tenure in the state, Bertino-Tarrant has strived to promote policies that ensure Illinois’ children who would have worked hard to attend the state’s public universities and community colleges have the financial means to be successful.

The governor’s proposal allocates $35 million to the AIM HIGH grant program, which provides merit-based awards to undergraduate students. The program is designed to encourage Illinois students to attend an in-state university, improve college affordability and reduce student loan debt.

“We need to take action to ensure our children graduate college with opportunities, not mountains of debt. The governor’s budget has prioritized keeping our best and brightest in Illinois.”


Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant from an interview after the speech

“I’m excited that the governor has put an additional $25 million on top of the $350 million, which is the minimum for our evidence-based model. We know this is a long process, but the governor has shown a strong commitment to doing this and we’re on the road to a more stable state of education funding.

“As the chair of education, my commitment is to at least have that funding every year and to make sure it is going to our students and our teachers to ensure they have the best possible education.”  


Senator Rachelle Crowe (D-Glen Carbon)

From a press release:

“Gov. Pritzker and his budget team made tremendous strides for Illinois today, focusing on our children and the future is something to be celebrated. I commend Gov. Pritzker for his commitment to invest more in both K-12 and higher education institutions.

“Under the proposed budget scheduled to start July 1, 2019, school districts across the state will get $25 million more than required by the new school funding formula – an increase to $375 million from $350 million.

“Higher education will also see a $50 million increase for the Monetary Award Program (MAP) and a $55.2 million increase for public universities’ operating expenses.

‘Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville and other area public schools have been decimated for too long, and stability must be brought back into our classrooms to invest in our state’s economic growth. I appreciate his effort and for sharing my main priority.

“I look forward to working with Gov. Pritzker on his bipartisan Downstate Revitalization Plan while having discussions on this proposal to agree on a final spending plan that is fiscally responsible to taxpayers.”


Senator Donald P. DeWitte (R-St. Charles)

From a press release:

“I appreciate the governor’s opening comment about bold optimism. I can only hope that correlates into bold compromise and bold bipartisanship. However, if the minimum wage increase is any indication of what’s to come, then we still have a lot of work to do.”

“Today in Springfield the governor outlined his suggestions on how to balance the budget, which included increasing taxes and borrowing millions of dollars for the pension crisis. For additional revenue, the governor called for the legalization and taxation of marijuana and sports betting and a graduated income tax.

“I’ve said all along, we don’t have a revenue problem in this state, we have a spending problem. Instead of proposing sufficient spending cuts, the governor proposed additional tax increases and is wanting to borrow money for the pension issue. These are the same ideas and policies that have led to the many problems facing our state today.

“I came into this process optimistic about working with the new governor and the new Legislature, and I intend on keeping an open mind moving forward. However, we must come together in a bipartisan manner if we truly want to put Illinois on a path toward prosperity instead of destruction. I hope the governor will make good on his comments about reaching across the aisle to tackle these issues.”


Senator Laura Fine (D-Glenview)

From a press release:

“It was refreshing to hear a budget address from a governor who is willing to work with the General Assembly to pass a balanced budget. After four years of budget addresses that seemed hostile to cooperation and functioning government, this return to stability is a nice change.

“I’m encouraged by Gov. Pritzker’s pledge to search for new revenue sources. Any way that we can increase the state’s revenue stream without having to increase taxes on working families is step in the right direction.

“I was also pleased to hear the governor lay out his legislative and budgetary priorities for this General Assembly. It’s much easier to work with a governor who makes their intentions clear. That allows us in the legislature to set our own agenda in a way that is complementary to the executive so that we can coexist in the way we ought to: as separate but equal branches.

“Overall, I was pleased with the address, and I look forward to working with the governor along with my Senate colleagues to ensure that the budgets we pass in the future are all fair, balanced and beneficial to everyone in Illinois.”


Sen. Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg)

 “I think this budget proposal is the starting point for further negotiations, and an opportunity for the governor to fulfill his promise to be able to work together in a bipartisan manner. I was encouraged that he did mention southern Illinois – he did not go into specifics about some of the development projects that we have, but I’m encouraged.”

 “There’s some hopeful revenues within this budget that remain to be seen. Even if you talk about sports gaming and recreational marijuana, those are some hopeful revenues that we’re not sure about how will come in. I’m encouraged that the revenue for education is going to be fully funding education. He mentioned the additional $375 million for K-12 education, so I’m excited for our school districts, but we still have a lot of work to do. This is not going to be an easy budget moving forward.”

 “We have to remain optimistic. He says he wants to continue getting to know and working with all legislators, so we have to give him every opportunity to do so in a bipartisan manner. This is his chance. I just hope he follows those actions and words moving forward.”

Re $15 minimum wage: “I’m extremely concerned. I feel like my district is going to be one of the districts that’s most affected, because my business community and residents have been reaching out to me and my office. I’ve got a manufacturing business in my district that actually had a meeting today to talk about the costs of moving the business to Indiana.”

“I’m also concerned about SIU Carbondale. I just received a report today saying they’re projecting an additional 11 percent decline in enrollment for the spring session, and not only that, but 2,300 of those students are student employees, and so SIU Carbondale will not be able to stand the minimum wage increase for those students, who rely on that income to pay for their education and their tuition.”

“One constituent who owns a convenience store reached out and said, ‘Senator, is this really going to pass? I could lose my job.’ So my district will be affected tremendously. Outmigration is a continued concern for us. We lost 45,000 citizens last year, and, you know, what’s it going to be this year?”

“I don’t know why we had to be in such a rush on this. We’re not opposed to an increase, but this is quite drastic. And when we already have one of the highest minimum wage rates in the area – to raise it to this extreme is unprecedented. Minimum wage was not designed to raise families on. It’s a great starting point, but  we see what the effects have been and probably what they’ll be.”


Senator Ann Gillespie (D-Arlington Heights)

From a press release:

“I am encouraged by the governor’s pledge to invest $5 million in career and technical education. I’m excited about the possibilities, particularly as we look to shore up the Illinois economy, stop the outmigration of suburban students to other states and put more people to work in good-paying jobs right here at home.

 “The key to fueling Illinois’ economic rebirth is to invest in education from cradle to career. I’m glad the governor shares this priority. Now it’s time for us all to get down to business, learn from past failures and figure out how to make some of these ideas a reality.”


Senator Suzy Glowiak (D-Western Springs)

From a press release:

 “Our schools are finally being funded the right way to help ensure our children receive outstanding educational opportunities without raising property tax bills. I’m happy to see that the state is finally paying its fair share.”

 “Too many governors for too long have kicked the can down the road on our state’s pension obligations. I need further details to decide if I can support a proposal that delays the year we fully fund our pension payments.”

 “The State of Illinois is breaking away from President Trump’s big tax breaks for massive corporations. We need to focus on finding savings and helping our local businesses prosper in our communities, not handing big conglomerates tax breaks on the taxpayer’s dime.”


Senator Michael E. Hastings (D-Tinley Park)

From a press release:

"It's an exciting new day in Illinois, and I am proud to say we finally have a governor who understands the challenges of the good people of Illinois and is ready to take them head on.

“Gov. Pritzker outlined today the serious challenges we face in Illinois. We have a state budget deficit that we must correct. We need to create jobs and opportunity for all Illinoisans. We have many people facing hardships: in our jails and prisons because they have mental health disorders that go untreated; out of work and struggling because they can't afford health care and the medications they need. It is our duty to improve our economy, shore up our budget and give hope to many facing difficult times.

“As chairman of the Senate Executive Committee, I will help lead discussions this year on our most difficult issues, and I look forward to working with the governor and my colleagues to make Illinois stronger and better tomorrow than it is today.”


Senator Toi Hutchinson, Illinois Senate Revenue Committee Chair, at a Illinois Legislative Black Caucus event (D-Olympia Fields)

“It is exciting, because at least now we are telling the truth. But I think at the end of the day, we as black caucus members recognize that the time for us behaving as though we don’t have the fiscal problems we have, which totally inhibits our ability to invest in the things we like to see invested in, is something that we’re all going to have to deal with.

"What the governor laid out in the budget is that we have a $3.2 billion structural deficit that we have to deal with. And, we are going to tell the truth about the fact that this is year one in building to a much better and stronger firmer fiscal standing. And those are things we have to start with from a shared understanding of facts.

"It is not just that we have, what everyone’s been telling us all this time, a spending problem. When you see where the lack of investments are, you see what we have is a revenue problem, and he was honest about that today.

"He talked about things like accessibility and readiness of cannabis all across the state right now. He talked about the fact that your neighborhood drug dealer doesn’t ask whether your child has ID.

"He talked about legalizing sports betting because it’s happening all around us and every day he waits we leave money on the table that could be going to our schools and our programs, and our youngest, and our oldest, and our most vulnerable.

"We here in the black caucus take a very firm, honest, pragmatic approach to the fact that we are going to be a part of the solutions for the state.

"We are here to make sure that the priorities of African Americans across the state are no longer looked over, are no longer left behind, and that whatever the state grows, we’re going to be a part of that as well.


Senator Linda Holmes (D-Aurora)

From a press release:

“We desperately need a stable, ongoing plan, and I’m getting input from my municipalities and school districts on their most urgent needs. The governor and I agree this issue requires us to do more than just fix what’s broken. I hope to see specific plans in the coming weeks that will invest in our infrastructure, create jobs and boost our economy to meet future challenges.”

 “I would like to see local governments’ share of income taxes increase. These funds have been cut nearly in half over the past several years and funding is dependent on proposed revenue growth. Otherwise, counties and municipalities may have to consider other fees or taxes to maintain their services.”


Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria)

From a press release:

“I think the governor’s budget is an important marker for what it’s going to take to the return the state budget to what it should be. I think it clearly lays out our values by increasing funding for both K-12 and higher education while also starting important conversations on how to deal with a pension system that consumes a fifth of our budget.

“I still have many questions about how this budget will affect Central Illinois and I’m confident this new administration will work with us, not against us, to get this done right.”


State Senator Kimberly Lightford, Chairman of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus (D-Maywood)

“The governor’s budget plan is a great start to tackle some of the key challenges we are facing including ensuring a living wage for working families and that students around the state receive a quality education.

 “His speech was very realistic about the hole that we are in and how we can climb out of it over time, while continuing to support crucial services like mental health support and violence prevention programs.

 “We look forward to working with our colleagues and the governor’s administration to guarantee that the issues facing the black community are prioritized in the next state budget.”


Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill)

From a press release:

“Gov. Pritzker presented an honest assessment of our fiscal challenges. The good news: he wants to put more money toward schools and career and technical education in central Illinois. That’s fantastic. Investment in education is an investment in the economy and in long-term stability.

“But his revenue proposals are going to present challenges, and they should be given a fair hearing in the Senate.”

 “I give the governor credit for being aggressive and creative in addressing Illinois’ budget problems. It’s refreshing to have a leader who is not trying to balance the budget on the backs of workers and retired teachers.”


Senator Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods)

From a press release:

“While I appreciate the fact that the governor laid out a balanced budget plan, it unfortunately does so by increasing taxes and kicking the can down the road on our pension problem. Borrowing $2 billion for our pensions, while pushing off almost $900 million in payments this year, only creates additional problems for our children and repeats the failed policies of the past.

“I recognize that the governor’s proposal is just a start. It’s going to take a lot of work going forward in order to produce a balanced budget that does not fall on the backs of taxpayers. I encourage the governor and the supermajority to hold true on their word to work in a bipartisan way. Unfortunately, the governor failed to work across the aisle on the minimum wage proposal so I hope that’s not a sign of what’s to come. Only time will tell.”


Senator Jim Oberweis (R-Sugar Grove)

From a press release:

“The annual Budget Address is a starting point for budget negotiations for the next fiscal year.  The governor is a very good speaker, but he has to deal with a very tough set of facts.  Any spending plan will have its supporters and its opponents, but after years of political gamesmanship by the House Speaker, we need a new approach.  To succeed, we need good-faith negotiations.

“Gov. Pritzker has said he is willing to negotiate, ready to listen.  This is his chance to prove it, because on its face, his budget plan will need some changes that require compromise. Right now, his plan calls for almost a billion dollars in new taxes and new revenue sources that many people do not support, almost a billion dollars in new spending, $2 billion in new borrowing, and a further deferral of about $800 million in required pension payments.  He did not listen to our concerns on the minimum wage bill.  In fact, in his speech he said, ‘The minimum-wage job is a lifetime ticket to poverty.’  But what that overlooks is that minimum-wage jobs are entry-level jobs so that workers can learn new skills and move on to higher-paying jobs.  It is our hope that he will keep his promise and reach out to us, and listen to our ideas on this and other important issues.  The residents of Illinois deserve no less.”


Senator Robert Peters (D-Chicago)

From a press release:

“The previous four years have conditioned me to automatically dislike the annual Budget Address, so it was a pleasant surprise to hear that Gov. Pritzker’s vision for the future of the state is one that is beneficial to all of the people who live here.

“I’d like to congratulate the governor for what I believe to be some very important and advantageous promises that he made in his speech. I’m glad he vows to increase investment in early childhood and K-12 education, because delivering folks a good, fulfilling life has to start young.

“I’m glad he vows to invest in social services like the CCAP program and disability services, because supporting those who need it throughout their entire lives is one of the most crucial functions of government.

“I’m glad he vows to invest in criminal justice efforts and violence prevention programs, as well as move to legalize recreational marijuana. However, I do caution that any attempt to legalize marijuana must be paired with expungement legislation so that folks who are currently in prison for marijuana offenses have a path toward release once it becomes legalized.

“This is a very good foundation upon which we can build a brighter future for everyone in Illinois that will help bridge the income inequality gap that plagues our state.

“I recently read an article about the income inequality in Chicago, which is growing at an alarming and potentially unsustainable rate. This hit home for me, because that’s where I live. It’s where I grew up, it’s where the people I represent live.

“We can use this budget as a springboard to leap toward more progressive forms of revenue, particularly a fair, progressive income tax that shifts the burden off of the black and brown working class families and onto the wealthy people who can afford to pay their fair share.

“This is a very promising budget. It’s not fully where it needs to be just yet, but I’m confident that with enough hard work, the General Assembly can use this budget as a starting point towards a functional, stable government that works for everyone and leaves no one behind.”


Sen. Paul Schimpf (R-Waterloo)

“I’m generally appreciative of the fact that Governor Pritzker is going to provide funding for schools, universities and infrastructure projects. My concern at this point is that Illinois needs to live within its means. We need to practice responsible budgeting, and we should be looking to trim expenses to match revenue instead of missing pension payments and raising taxes. I thought it was ironic that the governor spent a lot of time talking about how we need to learn from history, and then proceeded to make some of the exact same mistakes that governors have made in the past, by just increasing government spending and increasing taxes. I don’t think that’s how we’re going to get to long-term prosperity.”

“I don’t think you can solve our pension problem by borrowing more money, skipping payments, and extending the time to make those payments. I don’t know that what the governor offered is a viable pension solution.”

“My critique of the speech is that he’s not talking about spending cuts at all. And I don’t think we can achieve long-term financial stability by just increasing taxes and increasing government spending.”

“His message on spending cuts was, ‘The choices would be difficult, therefore we’re not going to do it at all.’ And I don’t think that’s the type of leadership that we need.”

Re $15 minimum wage: “During the floor debates on the minimum wage, Senator Kimberly Lightford said she was not concerned about what was going on in Missouri. Well, I’m very concerned about what’s going on in Missouri, what’s going on in Kentucky, what’s going on in Indiana. Because those states have more favorable business climates. I have had owners of both small businesses and large businesses tell me that they are going to shift their operations outside of Illinois. I feel that it is going to be very detrimental to our districts in southern Illinois.”

In today’s speech, the governor talked about how he thought people were working as hard in downstate Illinois as in Chicago, and therefore the minimum wage should be the same. What that argument misses out on, though, is the fact that cost of living is much less in downstate Illinois than it is in Chicago. That’s where the big difference lies. And you also have competition from neighboring states where the jobs will go away. It was a mistake not to have some type of a regionally-tiered approach where you would have one solution for Chicago and another solution for the rest of the state.”


Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago)

From a press release:

“Having the governor propose a balanced budget is a positive step toward restoring stability to our state and ensuring long-term functionality within our government.  Illinois continues to face structural budget challenges and I am encouraged that Governor Pritzker is addressing them head on.

“I look forward to working with the administration and my colleagues in the Senate over the next few months to develop a budget that significantly moves Illinois toward a solution that achieves financial certainty and builds trust that Illinois is back on the right track.”


Senator Brian Stewart (R-Freeport)

From a press release:

“The annual Budget Address is where we begin negotiations for the next fiscal year. Now we start the long process of considering every option and hammering out the details. This year, our new governor promised that he will work in a bipartisan manner; however, many of his early ideas, legislative actions, even this Budget Address do not reflect a spirit of compromise. The working class deserves more than lip service. I have real concerns about some aspects of this budget proposal. New taxes plus more spending without common-sense reforms or cuts to wasteful government programs are not the best ways to prioritize working families.”


State Sen. Jil Tracy (R-Quincy)

From a press release:

“Starting the 101st General Assembly, we knew passing a state budget would be one of our highest priorities—and greatest challenges.

“I believe bipartisan solutions and finding common ground are key to solving our state’s fiscal problems. More revenue grabs, increased spending and putting pension payments off won’t get us out of the debt we are in.  The governor has said he wants to work in a bipartisan manner – this is his chance.”


Senator Ram Villivalam (D-Chicago)

From a press release:

"It is a relief to serve with a governor who shares our values. We have difficult choices ahead of us. This budget won’t be a solution to all of the problems we face in Illinois, but it's a start.

 “Investing in education is one of the most important things we can do as legislators. To keep our young people in Illinois we need to provide quality higher education opportunities in our state so they go to school here, get jobs here and choose to raise their families here. By no means will these new revenue sources solve every problem we face, but ensuring that all students in Illinois in K-12 and beyond have the tools to succeed is a good start.”



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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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