Illinois legislative leaders from both sides of the aisle have different takes on the governor’s proposed budget.
Whether proposed tax relief for Illinoisans that pay among the highest taxes in the nation will be temporary or permanent will be hashed out in the state legislature.
The governor’s proposed budget seeks to spend nearly $4 billion more in the coming fiscal year than he proposed the year before. He laid out his priorities Wednesday at the Old State Capitol in Springfield.
Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, said he’s not accustomed to hearing good news in a budget speech.
“The governor laid out a proposal that should lead to another responsible balanced budget, building on our recent success and putting us further along toward a path of fiscal stability,” Harmon said. “Very encouraging news.”
State Senator John Connor, democrat from Lockport “In the face of the unprecedented challenges of the last two years, the proposed budget displays fiscal responsibility and offers statewide economic relief.
State Rep. Larry Walsh Jr, democrat from Elwood said, Today’s proposal from the governor was the first step in what will be a longer discussion, I look forward to engaging and working together with community partners to make sure the 86th District’s interests are well reflected.”
Pritzker insisted the proposed budget is balanced because of his administration’s management and increased tax receipts, not because of the billions of dollars in federal tax funds the state received in COVID-19 aid.
Harmon applauded the governor’s plan to provide temporary tax relief in the upcoming budget.
“The governor proposed a billion dollars in tax relief to hardworking Illinois families,” Harmon said. “Looking forward to working with him on the details ensuring this hits people in their pocketbooks.”
The plan includes freezing an estimated 2.2 cent increase in the gas tax this summer.
“We understand the desire to address drivers’ concerns with current high gas prices. But this change – skipping an expected increase of 2.2 cents per gallon scheduled for July 1 – will save the average driver a maximum of less than $1 per fill up,” a statement from the Transportation for Illinois Coalition said. “While those savings will take a long time to make a difference in the daily commute for drivers, the $135 million in revenue loss to the state’s Road Fund will be more significant and long lasting.”
Senate Minority Leader Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods, also had concerns, but didn’t elaborate.
“We actually believe there is a way to provide relief at the gas pump that doesn’t cut into the road fund,” McConchie said. “It actually provides the necessary infrastructure dollars that we need in order to shore up roads and bridges in a continuing, expanded fashion.”
The Republican leader said the governor and Democrats looking to stabilize state finances is good, but more needs to be done to reverse continued outbound migration. The state’s population has declined each of the past eight years.
“The governor appears to be hearing that, that people are having issues with the cost of living but is only offering this short-term relief,” McConchie said. “What we need is substantial, long-term tax relief that makes it affordable for people to live here.”
McConchie said a proposed freeze in grocery taxes should be permanent and expanded to pharmaceuticals. He also said rather than just a one-time rebate of up to $300 for property owners, there needs to be meaningful property tax reform for taxpayers.
“And be able to go to referendum to lower their own property taxes when they believe that a local unit of government has really gotten out of control,” McConchie said.
Pritzker addressed property taxes beyond the proposed one-time rebate.
“It’s time for every local taxing district to take a long hard look at reducing the burden of high property taxes they impose on their local residents,” Pritzker said Wednesday.
Illinois’ property taxes are the second highest in the nation, according to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation.
The Senate canceled this week’s session because of the weather. They return next week. Legislators’ spring session is scheduled to end April 8.
IRN and WJOL reporting