(The Center Square) – With lawmakers back in Springfield this week, bipartisan working groups on how lawmakers plan to appropriate taxpayer dollars are underway.
Lawmakers have a May 31 deadline to pass an approximately $42 billion spending plan. That’s just the state’s side of the spending. There’s also the nearly $53 billion in federal funds the state is expected to appropriate this year. The total spending plan, including state and federal sources, is $95.5 billion, up 2.2 percent from the previous fiscal year, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers.
Then there’s the $7.5 billion the state is getting in federal COVID-19 stimulus.
State Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside, said there has been an ongoing discussion among Democrats about the state’s budget, but this week they brought in Republicans.
One lingering criticism Republicans have had in past years is the Democratic supermajority dropping hundreds or thousands of pages of budget bills in the final hours of session with little or no time for review. Zalewski shared what he thought was the likelihood taxpayers will get to see the spending proposal before the final hours of session.
“I’ll say this, in years when we’ve been working collaboratively with the GOP we’ve had strong ability to get a budget in the last couple of weeks as opposed to the last couple of hours,” Zalewski said. “So if, in fact, we go down that path this time, I expect a similar result.”
State Rep. Jeff Keicher, R-Sycamore, is in one group. He said it is important taxpayers get a chance to review the proposal before the final hours of session.
“Too often things slip through that don’t get addressed, such as the [oversight on the trailer] license registration fee that was never supposed to be part of the 2019 package,” Keicher said.
Several measures at the statehouse would drop that tax from $118 to where it was before the 2019 change to $18, but those measures have not advanced despite having bipartisan support.
Zalewski declined to comment on the fee. But, lawmakers are expected to adopt the overall revenue estimate.
“In a year when federal stimulus is a concern of ours, to not interfere with it with tax credits or tax deductions or tax cuts, I think it makes sense to wait for the federal government to offer guidance on that,” Zalewski said.
It’s unclear what that means for the $932 million in various tax incentives the governor proposed to close.
Keicher couldn’t yet say if the Republican caucus will be on board with a proposed spending plan this early in the talks.
“Let’s see what comes out of these budget working groups and then I’ll have a little bit better idea at the conduction of that,” Keicher said.