House OKs $40 billion state budget
SPRINGFIELD -- The Illinois House passed a $40 billion state budget late Saturday that relies heavily on federal funding.
The spending plan for the budget year that begins July 1 now heads to the Senate. The bill passed on a largely party-line vote of 68-44.
The coronavirus pandemic that prompted Gov. J.B. Pritzker to issue a statewide stay-at-home order left businesses across the state closed. Between that and the 1 million Illinois residents out of work, lawmakers say the state will have just under $37 billion in revenue. As a result, lawmakers looked to Washington to fill the hole in the budget.
The budget deal was worked out largely out of public view over the past two and a half months as lawmakers worked remotely in various informal "working groups," and it continued to undergo changes in recent days in advance of the House debate.
House Democrats called the plan a way to get through the worst of times. Republicans called it a power grab by Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, whom they said would have the control of billions of dollars in federal funds.
"This crisis has taken a toll on us all, physically, emotionally, spiritually," House Majority Leader Greg Harris, D-Chicago, said on the makeshift floor at the Bank of Springfield Center. "There are a lot folks who need help out there across the state of Illinois. And we have a chance to make that help available.
"And again, this would be paid by the federal government."
The budget also includes $20 million grants from the Illinois Dept. of Public Health to nine hospitals in the state, chosen by the highest percentage of Medicaid patients and aimed to help hospitals "disproportionately impacted by the COVID pandemic," Harris said.
School districts will receive the same amount of funding as they received in 2020. The plan also keeps higher education spending flat to last year's budget. It also fully funds the certified contributions for pensions.
The 68-44 vote in the House to pass the budget bill appeared to fall largely along party lines, with Republicans arguing it relied too heavily on borrowing and not enough on fiscal restraint.
"What we've heard today is a budget that is balanced only on a wing and a prayer," said Republican Rep. Tom Demmer, of Dixon, the House GOP's chief budget negotiator.
Also Saturday, the House and later the Senate passed legislation pushed by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to change the tax structure for a casino in the city.
The legislation would also extend from two to six years the amount of time casino owners would have to make a reconciliation payment. The Tribune reported that the legislation also delays by a year, until July 1, 2021, the time by which gaming applicants must pay license fees.The measure moved to the Senate.
"The idea is to make this work for Chicago so we can fund the vertical capital, put people to work, not only for Chicago but for everywhere in the state of Illinois," said sponsoring Rep. Bob Rita, a Blue Island Democrat. "This is good for everyone for jobs and development -- having a Chicago casino be real."
A measure cleared Friday allows for the authorization of $5 billion in borrowing from the Federal Reserve's newly created Municipal Liquidity Facility authorized under the CARES Act, which is being used to balance the budget.
• Capitol News services, the Chicago Sun-Times and The Associated Press all contributed.