Northwest Side legislators discuss budget proposal
by JASON MEREL
Several Northwest Side legislators discussed Governor J.B. Pritzker’s $45.4 billion budget proposal for 2023 that includes property tax relief, increased investments in public safety and education, temporary relief for certain taxes and additional pension contributions.
“Do you know how good it makes me feel to get rid of some of our structural debt?” state Senator Robert Martwick (D-10) said. “The budget invests in education and increases MAP grants by an enormous amount. That’s critical for our neighborhood, to give kids from working class families better opportunities to get a college degree.”
State revenue for next year is projected at about $45.8 billion, which includes $41.8 billion in state revenues and $4 billion in federal relief funds. The 2023 proposal is $1.6 billion less than the 2022 budget. Pritzker said that the state would end the fiscal year with a $1.7 billion surplus.
“Our state budget surpluses would exist even without the money we received from the federal government,” Pritzker said during his budget address last week.
Pritzker proposed doubling property tax deductions, increased investment of $832 million for violence interruption, diversion and youth employment programs, an additional $350 million in education investment, one year suspensions of the state gas and grocery taxes and an additional pension contribution of $500 million over the required minimum contribution.
Martwick said he was glad that Pritzker acknowledged a pension buyout program that he proposed 2 years ago and said that it had saved the state $1.4 billion in pension obligations by reducing liabilities, which he said contributed to the state’s credit rating upgrades.
Martwick added that it’s disingenuous to spin the budget proposal as a one-off that relies on federal money.
“We have record revenues,” Martwick said. “This pandemic created an economic environment that I don’t think anyone could predict. We put in an Internet sales tax just before the start of the pandemic. Receipts are up because everyone is buying everything online and people dumped stimulus money into the economy as intended.”
State Representative Lindsey LaPointe (D-19) said she was glad to see the increased investments in education and public safety. She said proposed investments for domestic violence survivors and adult developmental disability services were “not where they need to be.”
LaPointe said there has been a documented growth in the needs of “gender-based violence survivors” during the pandemic. “What the governor has offered is not in alignment with the needs we’re seeing,” she said.
“The workforce is dismally underpaid and that resulted in Illinois being under a court order,” LaPointe added. “We know what we have to do and made a great investment in the 2022 budget, which women in the General Assembly had to step up and fight for, so young people in their 20s with developmental disabilities aren’t sitting at home on the couch with no services for them.”
About $11.9 billion of the 2023 budget is allocated for education, about $9.6 billion is allocated for pension obligations, about $2.1 billion is allocated for public safety, about $8.4 billion is allocated for human services, about $8 billion is allocated for healthcare, about $3.6 billion is allocated for government services, about $2.4 billion is allocated to debt service, about $117 million is allocated for economic development and about $89 million is allocated for environment and culture.
“These are not pie-in-the-sky ideas that don’t materialize,” Senator Laura Murphy (D-28) said. “Of course, our number one priority is to address the crime issue.”
She said that crime is an issue nationwide and she believes that’s due to disinvestment in police, social services and education.
“Our first responders could use more support and it looks like it’s going to happen with this,” state Representative Michael Kelly (D-15) said. “I’m glad to see $120 million going to nonprofit groups that need more security at places of worship.” Kelly was referring to a recent hate crime incident that targeted an area synagogue.
“I think we’re always in need of extra funds for mental health care,” he continued. “I know there’s more in this budget than has been previously provided so it’s good to see that.”
“I’ve been in Illinois politics for a while and it’s hard to remember a budget surplus,” State Representative Will Guzzardi (D-39) said. “All of us are focused on getting our budget back on track following the Rauner years and what we’ve seen this year is that we’re heading in the right direction.”
He said property taxes were on everyone’s mind, along with inflationary pressures, and he was glad to see Pritzker proposing the use of available resources to help lower both.
Guzzardi also said that the state has leftover American Rescue Plan Act funds and he wondered if those dollars could be used to acquire or rehabilitate housing for emergency placement housing for people who are homeless.Editor’s note: Several Northwest Side lawmakers including representatives Brad Stephens, Jaime Andrade Jr., Eva-Dina Delgado, and senators Ram Villivalam and Cristina Pacione-Zayas did not respond to requests for comment about the budget proposal.