(The Center Square) – With just a few days before the end of the General Assembly’s spring session in Illinois, there has yet to be a budget presented for the public to view.
Democrats say the current hole in the budget sits around $1.3 billion, but Republicans painted a different picture at a news conference Thursday. The GOP caucus laid out the unexpected revenues the state has at hand, totaling $16 billion.
“And yet they are looking at each of you in the eye every day, they are looking at the people of Illinois every day, and the men and women that we represent in our district and say ‘We don’t have enough money.’ Really?” said Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet.
They estimate for FY 2021 base revenue, there will be an additional $7.2 billion, and for FY 2022 base revenue, an additional $792 million. This is in addition to the $8.1 billion coming from the federal government.
Recent federal guidance for how stimulus money can be spent by states prohibits paying down debt, with the exception of COVID-19-related expenses. Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he planned to use federal funds to pay back $2 billion in borrowing from a federal fund during the pandemic, but that was nixed by the federal government.
Illinois was the only state that tapped into the Fed program, and state officials are reportedly lobbying Washington for permission to repay the central bank with the federal funds. In the meantime, Pritzker and lawmakers continue to figure out how to use the rest of the money.
Pritzker last week said that the budget is still much in the negotiation phase.
“Let me be clear,” said Sen. Jil Tracy, R-Quincy. “Any tax increase as part of this year’s budget must be off the table.”
Numerous Republican lawmakers say Pritzker should abandon his proposed tax changes, or “corporate loopholes,” in the midst of a pandemic economy, especially with revenues up due to stronger-than-expected revenues. They also oppose limiting a discount for retailers who collect state sales taxes, which may be a tough sell to Democrats, especially as small businesses have suffered as a result of the pandemic and the governor’s COVID-19 restrictions.
A request for comment from the Democratic Party of Illinois was not answered.
As time runs out, lawmakers will be evaluating if any of Pritzker’s proposals can provide stable revenue to help address some of Illinois’ long-term budget issues.