(The Center Square) – Statehouse Democrats say their fiscal management of the state has brought about a balanced budget with tax cuts, but Republicans say it relies on a one-time bailout from federal taxpayers that will dry up.
After the passage of the state budget in the early morning hours Saturday, Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, said Democrats have the state’s fiscal house in order.
“This balanced budget builds on the solid proposal [Gov. J.B. Pritzker] put forward in February to continue our responsible approach to budgeting, and providing tax relief,” Harmon said.
The measure is the largest annual spending plan in state history and spends nearly all of the $45.6 billion in revenue. It also includes about $1.8 billion in tax cuts, including the temporary reduction of the grocery tax and the delay of a looming gas tax increase.
Just two years ago at the start of the pandemic, Harmon was advocating for the federal government to send Illinois $40 billion in taxpayer funds. The state didn’t get that much.
“The $7.5 billion we received in federal aid needed to be used to pay bills and for emergency COVID costs rather than start new programs,” Harmon said Saturday.
During debate on the budget package earlier in the morning Saturday, state Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, argued against the plan and highlighted how two years ago, voters rejected the proposed progressive income tax. He said the approved forthcoming budget isn’t responsible.
“You were bailed out by, across the country, trillions of dollars, that were injected into our economies, that led to higher than expected collections in revenue for the state temporarily,” Demmer said of federal COVID-related funding to states.
He said there are no structural reforms to state spending and that will come back to bite taxpayers.
“And when this one-time revenue dries up, the only thing you’ll know how to do is to go back and raise taxes yet again,” Demmer said.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker praised the budget, signaling he’ll sign the plan.
“We’ve achieved our state’s strongest fiscal position in generations, and we prioritized the education, public safety, health, and welfare of the residents of Illinois,” Pritzker said. “Just a few years ago some people said what we’ve achieved was impossible. But it’s true. Our bill backlog is paid off. Our pension liabilities are reduced. Our rainy day fund is recovering. And we are delivering $1.8 billion of direct tax relief to the people we serve.”
The package has yet to be sent to his desk.