Democrats Announce Budget Deal
With the budget bills formally filed Wednesday night, legislators could meet their self-imposed deadline for wrapping up the spring session. The deal includes some key Pritzker initiatives, like a grant program to encourage grocery stores in “food deserts” and new work requirements for recipients of certain welfare benefits.
Health Care for Undocumented Immigrants
One of the biggest challenges is skyrocketing cost of a program to provide Medicaid-like health care for undocumented immigrants. But Pritzker’s office says it can contain costs by requiring copays from program participants, maximizing federal reimbursement, and moving program beneficiaries into the Medicaid managed care system.
By Thursday afternoon, House leaders said they had addressed many of the concerns raised by their members about this and other issues. They were also pleased that the budget would maintain a program to help fund private school scholarships. It will also expand evidence-based funding for schools and address a planned increase in lawmakers’ base salaries.
The plan also fully funds Pritzker’s priorities, including $250 million to increase the number of preschool slots. And stabilize the early childhood workforce and $100 million for home visiting programs and capital improvements at child-care centers. It would also allow the state to offer a tax credit to companies that create Illinois jobs.
The $50.5 billion spending plan lawmakers approved early Saturday will now go to Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker for his signature as Illinois enters a new fiscal year on July 1. But the budget is already getting mixed reviews.
The deal negotiated by Pritzker, Senate President Don Harmon, and House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch includes many of the spending priorities Pritzker put forward in his February proposal. For instance, violence prevention, higher K-12 funding, filling teacher vacancies, and expanding evidence-based school funding. It also increases local governments’ money from state income taxes.
The deal increases the budget for a non-citizen health care program part of the Illinois Immigrant Integration Initiative from $300 million to $450 million. It also adds options to cap future spending on that program. For example, requiring copays from people who enroll, maximizing federal reimbursement, and possibly moving participants into Medicaid-managed care.
After several days in heated final negotiations, Democratic lawmakers passed a state budget on Thursday that would boost lawmaker pay and bolster local government funding.
The $50.7 billion budget, expected to balance with current revenue levels, includes $250 million for the governor’s “Smart Start” early childhood education plan. It also increases funds for childcare workforce compensation, capital investments, and home visits.
Other highlights include a $45 million investment in the SEED program. The program would provide microgrants and additional entrepreneurial training to help workers and families. The budget also includes a $20 million grant program to encourage opening or expanding grocery stores in “food deserts,” often found in rural areas.
The budget deal satisfies several of Pritzker’s top priorities, including education. But many programs he pushed for were cut or were below their original funding goal.
Homelessness was given $350 million for the next fiscal year to boost outreach and housing programs. The budget also includes $100 million in new MAP financial aid grants to help make community college tuition-free for anyone earning below the median income.
Despite the progress, Republican lawmakers still criticize the $50.7 billion spending plan. Saying it is as short of a balanced state budget. The House will budget this weekend and has to approve it by May 31. This will help to avoid a legislative deadlock that requires a three-fifths vote for bills to become law effective immediately.
Pritzker, Welch, and Harmon hailed the compromise at a Capitol press conference Wednesday afternoon and claimed it was a “unity budget” with many provisions Pritzker had proposed in his State of the State address and subsequent statewide campaign.