State of Illinois finally passes a state budget

State of Illinois finally passes a state budget

THE ISSUE: After not having a state budget in nearly three years, Governor Rauner signed a budget on Monday.

OUR VIEW:  While not perfect, the budget does provide a step in the right direction for those who depend on the legislature to do the job they were sent to Springfield to do.

SPRINGFIELD (June 3, 2018) – Following nearly three years without a state budget, Illinois now has a budget as a result of Governor Bruce Rauner signing into law the $38.5 billion budget on Monday. Hard to believe, isn’t it? We’ve become so accustomed to the bickering, name calling and lack of action from the legislature that it is truly hard to fathom that after three years they have finally completed the main task they were supposed to accomplish each year.

But who’s counting those years? Social services, school districts, state employees, businesses who have tried doing business with the state, just to name a few were.  They and many other groups were all left holding the empty promises of “maybe you’ll get paid and maybe you won’t” each and every year the state didn’t have a budget. It’s been nothing short of a living hell for many in Illinois, but not for the legislators who continued to collect a paycheck despite not completing their work.

Despite the budget’s shortcomings of not reducing taxes or paying down the state’s mounting debts, the budget does maintain state government spending close to existing levels. The bright side of the budget is that it provides funding for early childhood and K-12 grade education by a combined $407 million. Universities and community colleges will receive a two percent increase over the current budget.

Additional highlights include $63 million to pay union workers wage increases that have been owed since 2011 ,and  it provides a new critical access rate for pharmacies to ensure independent pharmacies receive rates from Medicaid that are adequate to cover their costs. Local governments will receive some relief as currently 10 percent of the state income taxes that cities are entitled to was withheld to balance the state’s budget. In the newly passed budget, the state will only withhold five percent. The budget also fully funds the state employees’ health insurance for the coming year. The budget also projects savings of $445 million for a new buyout option for those having a state pension.

Families who adopt children will receive a $5,000 tax credit according to the new budget plan.

We should have known that the legislature and the Governor would come to an agreement this year — after all, it is an election year — but we’re told that of course did not have anything to do with the budget somehow managing to gain approval as the legislative session was about to conclude. While it’s hard not to be cynical, at least it’s one small step in the right direction.