From the State Capitol, February 20, 2019 — In his first Budget Address, Gov JB Pritzker spoke about the need to control spending and that the path forward for Illinois would take a multi-year approach to fix the state’s financial future.
As part of that effort, the Gov said he will pursue new income from legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, the licensing of sports betting, and his primary policy goal — changing the Illinois constitution to allow the state to have a progressive income tax instead of the current flat tax on income. WHEN that Consititutional Amendment is passed — if it is — the Pritzker Administration would apply some $200 million every year above the current required amount toward paying the pension liabilities
But passing a Constitutional Amendment can be daunting, as Gov Rauner discovered when his effort to do so was defeated by a Supreme Court ruling. It takes a 2/3rds vote in both Chambers of the legislature, and then the amendment must be passed by a vote of the people on the statewide ballot. That means a change to the state’s flat income tax could not be changed until the election of November 2020, at the earliest, and the increased income to the state would not arrive in large numbers until 2021.
The Governor’s Budget calls for additional spending on early childhood learning, K-12, and some additional spending on higher education, but no new taxes at this time.
On paper, the total spending would be $38.9 BILLION, with an estimated income of $38.75 Billion, that would produce a surplus of $155 million — IF PROJECTIONS HOLD.
Partisan divide is sure to follow the speech, but there was also a sense of some relief, in that — after the sharp division of the Rauner years, were NO budget was passed for the first two years, and a budget passed the third year only after lawmakers of both parties voted to override the Gov Rauner’s veto — the legislature this year has full confidence a budget will be passed this year and signed into law.
Where it’s a good budget, or a balanced budget, remains to be seen.
Rep Jim Durkin, the Republican Leader in the House issued a statement following the address, “The Governor’s budget today shows the true need for bipartisan solutions to fix Illinois’ many fiscal challenges. We cannot tax, borrow and spend our way out of this deficit as the governor has proposed. Illinois families deserve a focus on reform, including our out-of-control pension costs and sky high property taxes, and not a penny more in new taxes or fees. My caucus is prepared to work with the Governor on crafting a balanced budget that reflects our priorities and moves Illinois forward.”