In what’s becoming typical for the Illinois General Assembly, major pieces of legislation were rushed through in the dead of night in an effort to bypass transparency. One such measure was the Fiscal Year 2022 budget, which was filed and voted on within hours, all while the public was asleep.
In the late hours of May 31, Democrats filed a more-than-3,000-page budget and voted on it a few minutes later in the House of Representatives. An hour later, it was brought over to the Senate, where it was taken up and passed in the early morning hours of June 1.
While details of the partisan plan are still being reviewed, there are several glaring issues within the budget, currently on the Governor’s desk.
First, it includes $666 million in tax hikes on businesses. These tax increases include the elimination of programs designed directly to grow jobs. With unemployment still high and many businesses struggling to get back to some type of normal, more jobs are desperately needed. Unfortunately, these tax hikes will likely slow job growth and hurt economic recovery efforts.
Democrats also managed to squeeze in plenty of pork for themselves, including at least 75 new pet programs within the Illinois Department of Human Services alone, plus $1 billion in capital improvement projects for Democrat lawmakers’ districts. The budget also includes a pay-raise for lawmakers, despite strenuous calls from Senate Republicans to block any increase to legislator salaries.
Despite a $10 billion to $12 billion deficit in the unemployment trust fund, the source of unemployment checks that was so critical to so many during the pandemic, the Democrats only appropriated $100 million to the fund, amounting to little more than an interest payment.
The budget also failed to properly fund services for persons with developmental disabilities. Funding for those programs is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit and consent decree. The Democrats’ budget only provides the estimated amount needed for half of a year.
There were some positive notes, however. Thanks to pushback from Senate Republicans, funding for local governments and mass transit districts was left intact. The budget also fully funds the evidence-based formula for K-12 schools, ignoring Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s original proposed plan to underfund schools.