Illinois Democrats Provide FY23 Budget Update
SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) — The legislative budget process is underway in Springfield as lawmakers hope to have their fiscal plan for fiscal year 2023 passed by April 8.
House Majority Leader Greg Harris (D-Chicago) explained Thursday that appropriations committees talk to each state agency to discuss requests in the budget. Both chambers are also closely watching sudden changes in state revenue projections, for better and for worse.
Included in the Unprecedented Income Budget Relief is Governor JB Pritzker’s proposed tax relief plan. However, Harris said members need to be careful about using that money.
“We’re going to continue to look at the more conservative side of the numbers because we know things can go south pretty quickly if there’s another variation or whatever,” Harris said. “And we want to be sure to plan for those eventualities.”
Harris noted that this budget would have to pay pension obligations and repay interfund borrowing with one-time revenues from the federal government’s U.S. bailout. Democrats also plan to invest $800 million in the state’s rainy day fund to prepare for any future financial emergencies.
Pritzker’s budget proposal also calls for major investments in public safety, including $18.6 million to help 300 cadets graduate to become Illinois State Police, $5.4 million to dollars for new forensic equipment used in investigations and millions of dollars for police training. Harris also pointed to a proposed $250 million investment in evidence-based violence prevention strategies.
Another area of the budget is funding for mental health services. Members of both parties have recognized the mental health consequences of this pandemic, from people living in isolation to children struggling to keep up in school. Harris noted that suicides have increased by 200% since the start of the pandemic and that cases of overdose deaths have increased by 33% during the same period. However, the waiting list for mental health care continues to grow.
“There are 4,000 vacancies at community health centers and addiction treatment centers across the state,” Harris said. “One of the things that people are really supporting in the budget presented by the Governor is this major new $130 million investment in the mental health and addiction treatment workforce and treatment. It can eliminate the wait list, fully staff community service agencies, and begin providing rapid, trauma-informed care to people in crisis.
Lawmakers also grapple with the question of how best to use federal funds to help industries that have been hit hard by the pandemic. Harris explained that the organizations have already submitted funding requests to help hospitals, restaurants, hotels, theaters and affordable housing. He noted that there is great financial need, but resources are limited.
Many are also focusing on the growing debt in the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. The critical fund deficit has already reached $4.2 billion. Lawmakers in both chambers have suggested using some of the US bailout funds to fill that hole before it gets bigger. A task force of Democrats, Republicans, and business and labor leaders has met regularly with the Pritzker administration to try to find a solution to this problem.
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