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Senate floor

SPRINGFIELD — Democratic members of the Illinois Senate reacted to Governor JB Prtizker’s budget proposal Wednesday, acknowledging he has been faced with unprecedented challenges but hoping for stability and predictability.

Illinois Senate President Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) said the governor’s proposal is a good-faith effort to both recognize our state’s financial realities and honor our commitments and priorities.

“Coming out of this pandemic, we need to get people back to work. Our first priority with any tax incentive needs to be jobs for hardworking Illinoisans,” Harmon said. “So, I think it’s fair to ask what the hardworking taxpayers of Illinois are getting in return for these corporate tax breaks. It’s entirely appropriate to put some of these incentives under the microscope to see what works and get rid of what doesn’t. Senate Democrats, however, are always interested in finding resources for education. I suspect this year will be no different.”

More members of Harmon's leadership team shared their reactions:

Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood): “Overall, the governor’s proposal is a good starting point. It funds preschool. It funds the criminal justice reform law we just passed. It provides additional funding for programs to keep older adults and people with disabilities in their homes. However, I think we need to have a bigger conversation about K-12 education funding. If we follow this plan, it will be the second year in a row that we don’t fulfill our commitment to increase funding to Illinois public schools. I understand this is a difficult budget year because of the pandemic, but our kids and teachers in low-income communities cannot and should not have to wait forever to see the funding increases they were promised.”

Deputy Majority Leader Laura Murphy (D-Des Plaines): “The past year posed unprecedented challenges to families and businesses in Illinois and across the nation. To bring our state and local economies back on track, it’s critical that we move forward with a concrete financial recovery plan, and that starts with a balanced budget. I’m relieved to hear the state budget will make our full required pension payment without overtaxing the working-class families still struggling to make ends meet as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.”

Assistant Majority Leader Tony Munoz (D-Chicago): “With the continuous effects from the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m looking forward to bringing our state back to where it needs to be. This year’s budget continues Illinois’ path toward stability by making the best of a difficult situation. It avoids tax hikes that working families can’t afford and minimizes painful cuts to programs that people rely on.”

Assistant Majority Leader Linda Holmes (D-Aurora): “I believe our key priority must be a strong recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic for Illinois families. Other goals would be difficult to achieve unless we can keep people healthy, get people vaccinated, and rebuild a strong economy with good jobs. As chair of the Labor Committee, I’m well aware of how the Illinois Department of Employment Security has been overwhelmed to perform during this crisis. IDES is 100% federally funded, but this budget gives the governor the authority to utilize it.”

Assistant Majority Leader Dave Koehler (D-Peoria): “I am pleased that the budget proposal is focused on providing stability and predictability to working families in these uncertain times. This year’s budget offers a notable increase in resources for older Illinoisans and individuals with disabilities, as well as additional funds for the Illinois Department of Employment Security to remedy delays in aid to those in need.”

Majority Caucus Chair Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago):  “I am pleased that the governor’s plan has not cut Medicaid and other health service areas, while even increasing spending on some human services. After the hard year we’ve endured, it is vital that our health care and human services are properly funded. Quality, affordable health care should be recognized as a right for all. We need to continue to rethink and reshape the leadership of our state’s health care, leading with diversity, inclusion, and justice at the center.”

Assistant Majority Leader Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago): “The governor has outlined a plan I feel is a good basis for negotiations, and one that holds the line for families rather than corporations. I have often said that a budget is a moral document. It reveals who we think matters as a state and a society. And this year, we must provide the stability more Illinoisans need after a year of an unending public health and economic crisis.”

Deputy Majority Leader Emil Jones, III (D-Chicago):Governor Pritzker presented a reality-based budget this afternoon. He touched on important areas, such as funding for human services, but like any plan in these difficult times, it’s not perfect. As a major advocate for improving the quality of life for Illinois residents, I applaud the proposed additional funding for human services. I also commend the governor for providing more funding to help people with disabilities remain in their homes.”

Majority Caucus Whip Napoleon Harris, III (D-Harvey): “I received many calls from families about their unemployment difficulties throughout this pandemic. I can say that I strongly support the governor’s decision to invest more funding in call center workers, IT resources, and fraud analysis at the Illinois Department of Employment Security. In addition, as a person who supports entrepreneurship, the proposal will increase funding to continue to support our small businesses through the Cannabis Social Equity Local Program.”

Majority Caucus Whip Michael E. Hastings (D-Frankfort): “The proposal outlined by Governor Pritzker today is just the start of what will certainly be a challenging negotiation process. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented our people with generational economic challenges, and there is no question that this is going to be an incredibly difficult year for the state of Illinois. That is why our focus must be providing critical services to the people we represent, improving the unemployment system, assisting small businesses impacted by the pandemic, and putting people back to work through investment in infrastructure projects.”

Majority Caucus Whip Julie Morrison (D-Lake Forest): “The governor’s proposed budget underscores the need to bring resources to Illinoisans who have found themselves in unfathomable situations triggered by the pandemic – and I share those concerns. Now, the General Assembly will review this proposal and pass a budget reflecting our limitations and our state’s effort to recover from the pandemic.”

And more senators' reactions:

Senator Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago): “I appreciate that this plan recognizes the realities of Illinois’ fiscal situation, avoiding tax hikes that working families can’t afford and minimizing painful cuts to programs that people rely on. Our top priority has to be a strong recovery to the COVID-19 pandemic for Illinois families and small businesses. We need to keep people healthy, and rebuild a strong economy.”

Senator Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago): “The governor’s proposed budget is a good baseline to begin negotiations. It keeps crucial human services whole, provides eviction mitigation services, and makes a full pension payment. I am eager to continue conversations with my colleagues and the governor’s office to deliver a budget that maintains these elements while also kick starting our business economy and providing support to industries that have been shut down as a result of COVID-19.”

Senator Mike Simmons (D-Chicago): “It’s clear that the governor has made an earnest effort to hold the line for working people by closing corporate tax loopholes and increasing funding to programs that help ensure people can remain in their homes. This proposal gets us off on the right foot, but it’s just the beginning of the budget-making process in Illinois.”

Senator Ram Villivalam (D-Chicago): “I am pleased that the Governor is seeking additional federal funding to the Department of Employment Security to address the backlog. Additionally, the governor pointed out where we can potentially save $932 million by closing corporate tax loopholes. At a time where large corporations are making record profits at the expense of everyone else, I am happy to see that Illinois is taking the lead in creating an equitable recovery.”

Senator Laura Fine (D-Glenview): “Given the challenges Illinois has faced over the last year, the governor’s proposal for a balanced, functional budget is both a relief and a promise that we are on the road to recovery. As a strong advocate for mental health care, I’m glad to see the proposed budget includes funding for suicide prevention and awareness programs, which are even more critical as individuals and families grapple with the losses and stresses resulting from the pandemic.”

Senator Robert F. Martwick (D-Chicago): “I’m pleased that the governor’s budget proposal includes a full payment to our pension debt. Closing tax loopholes for the wealthiest will allow us to continue providing a base line minimum investment in education and critical services, complete our Chicago Veteran’s Home, and keep Illinois headed in the right direction as we work out way out of the global pandemic.”

Senator Celina Villanueva (D-Chicago): “The pandemic has highlighted the disparities already felt by Latino/a/x communities. Systemic disinvestment coupled with this public health crisis have upended our communities and more is needed to repair the damage that has been done over generations. While some relief efforts, like the BIG and Paycheck Protection Programs, have prioritized Latino/a/x businesses to a small extent, the investments made are nowhere near what is needed to provide tangible relief to the working families in the district I represent.”

Senator Robert Peters (D-Chicago): “The COVID-19 pandemic requires all of us to shift our priorities. The governor’s proposed budget is not perfect, but considering the circumstances, it can’t be. However, I do wish the proposed budget would have made a greater commitment to funding programs that will work to bring safety and justice in our communities. There is a modest increase proposed, but this past year showed us that much more is needed.”

Senator Elgie R. Sims, Jr. (D-Chicago): “The governor has presented a budget plan that I believe has been put forward in good faith and that takes important steps to fund the vital criminal justice reforms we passed, including funding for additional law enforcement training and body cameras. Likewise, I am heartened by his proposal to increase funding to some social services, including those that help people stay in their homes.”

Senator Cristina Pacione-Zayas (D-Chicago):  “While the governor’s general approach is commendable given the circumstances, I’m disappointed that he has outlined a plan that doesn’t deliver schools the annual increase in Evidence-based Funding, nor an increase to the Early Childhood Block Grant to protect the early care and education workforce during a time when they have shown up every day to serve students and young children.”

Senator Laura Ellman (D-Naperville): “The governor’s proposed budget showed a fairly realistic and responsible framework for the state. For example, one aspect of this budget that I was pleased to see was the state’s fully funded pension payment. Even during a pandemic, we need to maintain our commitment to fiscal discipline. I was glad to see that priorities I consider important for District 21 – child care, help for seniors, student aid – are maintained.”

Senator Cristina Castro (D-Elgin): “As we have adjusted to the new reality, it is important that our state budget focuses on how to best support those who have been hit the hardest by the pandemic. While the budget proposal isn’t perfect and we continue to negotiate how to utilize the funds that we have, I look forward to working with my colleagues to provide stability for residents of our state.”

Senator Thomas Cullerton (D-Villa Park): “I have been concerned with the struggles the Illinois Department of Employment Security has been facing while dealing with an unprecedented number of unemployment cases this last year. I’m hoping utilizing additional funding will alleviate that stress and help those struggling in the 23rd District.”

Senator Suzy Glowiak Hilton (D-Western Springs): “Stabilizing funding levels for higher education, human services and pension payments in the state’s budget proposal will relieve residents’ of some pandemic-related concern. The suggested cost-saving initiatives have potential, and I look forward to my involvement in further negotiations.”

Senator Karina Villa (D-West Chicago): “This budget proposal is a good starting point for further negotiations with my fellow legislators. We must recognize the reality of our state’s fiscal situation while continuing to advocate for Illinois’ most vulnerable populations. I look forward to working with my colleagues to try to find a way to balance the budget and ensure proper funding for programs that support older Illinoisans and people with disabilities.”

Senator Ann Gillespie (D-Arlington Heights): “While working people are often forced to choose between rent and food, some of the largest corporations are earning record profits. The governor’s proposal will put Illinois at the forefront of an equitable recovery by closing corporate loopholes and maintaining essential services. Making these changes would allow us to expand on our relief efforts and level the playing field for our small business community.”

Senator Adriane Johnson (D-Buffalo Grove): “Over the past year, people throughout the district and state as a whole have faced unprecedented financial challenges. Families are relying on assistance more than ever – and dire cuts to human services programs simply can’t happen. I am pleased our community can continue to get back on its feet as we work to avoid additional costs for families while ensuring current assistance programs stay afloat.”

Senator Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake): “The times we are faced with have made a state budget seem like a nearly impossible feat, yet the governor was able to prioritize our most vulnerable populations. Older Illinoisans and people with disabilities have often felt unheard throughout the pandemic. Today, however, they can know their voices are being elevated.”

Senator Steve Stadelman (D-Rockford): “The governor's proposed budget recognizes the realities of the state's fiscal situation. In these trying times, we need to make sure we take care of our most vulnerable. I was pleased to see additional resources to help the state provide unemployment benefits and meal delivery services for seniors. While I don't agree with every aspect of this plan, I believe it attempts to make the best out of a difficult situation.”

Senator Patrick J. Joyce (D-Essex): “The ongoing pandemic continues to take a toll on families and small businesses across the state. The governor’s proposal recognizes the realities of Illinois’ fiscal situation and puts the focus on reducing the state’s expenses. While COVID-19 remains our biggest challenge, I am pleased to see the proposed budget support struggling families and family-owned businesses while ensuring the state is spending within its means.”

Senator John Connor (D-Lockport): “Although rebuilding our state’s budget and economy will take discussion, effort and time, the proposed budget provides insightful ideas to spark negotiation. I agree with the proposal’s commitment to support human services for residents struggling through the pandemic while making full payments of the state’s pension obligation.”

Senator Doris Turner (D-Springfield): “Today’s budget proposal from Governor Pritzker shows that he understands that crucial human services need to be maintained in order for a complete economic recovery once we return to normalcy. Those who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 will reap the benefits of a bolstered Illinois Department of Employment Security, mental health services, and senior assistance programs. These investments will go a long way to ensuring the correction of systemic failures which hurt so many during the COVID-19 crisis.”

Senator Meg Loughran Cappel (D-Shorewood): “This year has been tough on a lot of families, especially those with school-aged children. I am glad to see that the governor plans to maintain funding for higher education and increase funding for need-based tuition assistance programs. We are living through unprecedented times, and I understand that some priorities will need to take precedent.”

Senator Scott M. Bennett (D-Champaign): “This budget proposal acknowledges the hardships that families have faced and continue to face during this awful pandemic, while also looking ahead at the needs of the people within our communities. I’m pleased to see this budget proposal invests in agencies like the Illinois Department of Employment Security, which has been overwhelmed over the past 11 months.”

Senator Rachelle Crowe (D-Glen Carbon): “In the budget proposal, I agree with the state’s commitment to support human services, make full payments to the state’s pension obligation, fund public safety initiatives and increase resources for the Illinois Department of Unemployment Security to assist with the benefit case backlog.”