Pritzker, Democratic leaders celebrate historic investments in Fiscal Year 2024 budget

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) — Gov. JB Pritzker approved the Fiscal Year 2024 budget with historic investments in childcare, education, and human services Wednesday. The budget reflects $50.6 billion in projected revenue and $50.4 billion in spending, but the administration believes there will also be a $183 million surplus.

Pritzker said he is glad Democrats focused on his top priorities while restoring fiscal responsibility.

“The budget includes a $700 million investment for the pension stabilization fund, which is $200 million more than the state’s required payment. Democrats also allocated $180 million to the state’s rainy day fund, set to surpass $2 billion ahead of the potential recession.

“Thanks to our firmer fiscal foundation, we have been able to put billions of dollars back into the pockets of Illinois taxpayers while investing in our future,” Pritzker said. “Our balanced budgets have allowed thousands more students to stay in Illinois because they can now afford a college degree.”

The plan includes $350 million for the evidence-based funding model for K-12 schools and $250 million to launch Pritzker’s Smart Start Illinois program to transform early childhood education and expand childcare services.

A $75 million boost for the Early Childhood Block Grant will increase preschool capacity by creating 5,000 new slots for children from low-income families. Democrats also included $45 million to help fill teacher vacancies in school districts struggling to attract and retain teachers.

“Thanks to the work of our budgeteers and our colleagues in the House and Senate, you know what we value,” said House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch. “We value the people of Illinois. This budget invests in hardworking Illinoisans all across the state and I am so proud to be one of those Illinoisans today.”

Budgeteers also included a $100 million increase in MAP grant funding to ensure anyone at or below the median income level can go to community college for free.

The spending plan features more than $500 million in state and federal dollars to support Illinois’ health care system. Sponsors also included a roughly $240 million increase in funding for facilities that help people with developmental disabilities.

Direct support professionals will receive a $2 raise on July 1, and their wages will go up by another 50 centers on January 1. 

House and Senate Republicans were upset that Democrats did not agree to a $4 raise for these essential workers.

“I am respectfully saying thanks to everybody who worked for $2.50,” said Sen. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet). “But it crowded out $4, which is what the actual study that was done said is necessary to legitimately serve those who cannot, through no fault of their own, help themselves.”

Still, Democratic leaders stressed that everyone had to compromise in order to reach a strong balanced budget.

“As a mom that’s balancing that check book, one of the things that you clearly understand is that you have to do the most that you have with what you have,” said Chief House Budgeteer Jehan Gordon-Booth (D-Peoria). “And that doesn’t mean that everybody gets everything, but everybody gets what they need.”

The spending plan features over $350 million to support homelessness prevention and provide affordable housing. Pritzker’s Home Illinois program will also support crisis response efforts and expand the number of staff focused on helping people experiencing homelessness.

Gov. JB Pritzker claps while Sen. Elgie Sims (D-Chicago) and Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth (D-Peoria) hold the Fiscal Year 2024 budget moments after it was signed into law.

“We are not making expenditures,” said Chief Senate Budgeteer Elgie Sims (D-Chicago). “We’re making investments — investments in people, investments in community, investments in the unhoused. We have made historic investments in education unlike anything we have ever seen.”

Republican lawmakers agree that there are great investments in this budget, but they strongly opposed the $1.1 billion to provide health care services for undocumented immigrants.

“It ignores the overwhelming call for relief from the tax and utility costs that are crushing families and small and medium-sized businesses still struggling to overcome their COVID-19 setbacks,” said Senate Republican Leader John Curran (R-Downers Grove).

The budget features $250 million for gun violence prevention and youth employment programs. Democrats also earmarked an additional $18 million for grants and support for community organizations that need security improvements to prevent, prepare for or respond to acts of terrorism.

“In Illinois, we care about our neighbors,” said Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton (D-Illinois). “We believe everyone should have access to the opportunities to retire, that our children should be lifted up, and that everyone belongs in the future we are building.”

The FY24 spending plan includes $30 million to reimburse local law enforcement agencies for in-car cameras, body cams, and storage. This budget also features $10 million for recruitment of new officers, retention plans, mental health care for police, safety equipment, and training.

While Pritzker signed the budget, he used a line-item veto to address pay raises for constitutional officers and state lawmakers that would be above the legal limit. The budget proposal increased the cost of living adjustment by 5.5%. State law notes that the annual increase must by capped at 5% or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower.

“While Illinois families struggle, Governor Pritzker decreased the politician pay raise a paltry .5%. While this change may make it constitutional, it does not make it right,” said House Republican Leader Tony McCombie. “House Republicans will continue to hold the majority party accountable to not only our constitutional rights but also to Illinois taxpayers.”

Pritzker’s veto reduced the spending plan by $192,700. However, lawmakers do not have to return to the Capitol to approve that change.

The budget takes effect on July 1.

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