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House passes $53.1 billion plan, sends it to governor – NBC Chicago

The Illinois House of Representatives passed a $53.1 billion state budget early Wednesday morning, making the budget $400 million more expensive than the one proposed by Governor JB Pritzker in February. Tax increases and other changes to tax law will raise $1.2 billion to finance the budget.

Shortly after two o'clock on Wednesday, after discussions had lasted into the night, MPs voted 65 to 45 to approve the budget.

The budget, which was passed by the Senate over the long Memorial Day weekend, now lands on Pritzker's desk, where it awaits his signature.

“This budget is balanced, responsible and fair,” Jehan Gordon-Booth, House Speaker pro tempore and Democrat from Peoria, told the executive committee. “It invests in children, it invests in infrastructure, it invests in our most vulnerable.”

Republicans complained that Democrats, who control the House, are living beyond their means and failing to prepare for what many predict will be lean years ahead. House Republican vice-chair Norine Hammond of Macomb said she had discovered at least $1 billion in spending that would be pushed into the next fiscal year.

“I'm concerned that there are tricks in this budget that will put us on the path to a huge collision in the future,” Republican Rep. CD Davidsmeyer of Jacksonville told Gordon-Booth. “I hope I don't have to say, 'I told you so,' when it happens.”

So what does this mean for the residents?

Here are some things you should know:

Food tax

Many Illinois residents are concerned about the state grocery tax.

The approved plan calls for the elimination of the tax in Illinois.

But because the tax directly benefits local communities, the budget would allow each community to enact its own grocery tax of up to 1% without state oversight. And communities with home rule powers — generally any city or county with a population of more than $25,000 — would have the authority to enact a sales tax of up to 1% without having to put the question before voters for approval.

Pritzker called for the tax's elimination during his budget speech in Springfield earlier this year. The governor said the proposed elimination would be a relief for families still suffering greatly from rising prices. Pritzker criticized the 1% tax as a “regressive tax” that the state does not need.

“If it reduces inflation for families from four percent to three percent, it is the right thing to do, even if it only leaves families a few hundred dollars behind,” he said.

More than a dozen states currently impose a tax on food, and while Pritzker's plan to exempt Illinois from the tax has garnered widespread approval among consumers, the state's current tax generates significant revenue for local governments.

However, over the long Memorial Day weekend, Senate members praised the abolition of the tax.

“This measure alleviates skyrocketing food prices,” State Senator Steve Stadelman said in a statement. “By eliminating the state sales tax on groceries, we can provide financial relief to families across the state and make essential items more affordable.”

According to state law, the 1% tax on food applies specifically to items intended to be “consumed outside the store in which they are sold.”

The sales tax was suspended as part of Pritzker's budget for fiscal year 2022. Officials estimate that this could save shoppers up to $400 million.

Tax increases

For example, while the grocery tax could be eliminated, another provision in the budget could result in a higher tax bill for most of the state's residents.

According to the budget proposal, Pritzker is proposing that the state increase its exemption amount to $2,550 for the 2024 tax year.

Because this increase is less than originally planned due to inflation, the measure would result in an estimated $93 million in contributions to the state's general fund, according to the budget.

According to state officials, the “exemption amount” is a standard deduction for taxpayers in the state of Illinois designed to reduce adjusted gross income.

The deduction for the 2023 tax year was $2,425, according to the state's tax office. That figure was lower than the $2,625 originally planned, with the figure determined by fluctuations in the Consumer Price Index, which measures inflation.

The government had suspended this automatic, inflation-linked increase, but planned to allow it again in 2024. Then the exemption amount would have risen to $2,775.

Instead, Pritzker's plan would result in the exemption amount being $225 lower than originally planned. For state residents, this could result in a slight increase in their tax burden as their taxable income increases.

Republicans in the state have sharply criticized the move, arguing that it would unfairly penalize low- and middle-income citizens.

“This is going to hit low- and middle-income families and it's a tax increase,” Senate Minority Leader John Curran told WBEZ. “If the legislature doesn't pass this, people will get a bigger tax savings under the current law than what the governor has proposed.”

Child allowance and sports betting

The budget approved by the Senate also provides for an increase in funds for the child tax allowance, which will be financed in part by an increase in taxes on sports betting.

According to lawmakers, the budget includes “$50 million in investments for a child tax credit for eligible low-income families and the Early Income Tax Credit (EITC), as well as wage increases for Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) and Community Care Program (CCP) workers and increased funding for social care hospitals.”

The funds for this will come from increased taxes on sports betting and video gambling. Pritzker wanted to increase the tax paid by casino sportsbook operators from 15% to 35%, but it would be set on a sliding scale of 20% to 40%.

“Millions of working families across the state are struggling to make ends meet, and this budget shifts taxpayer dollars to stabilize our economy through better-paying jobs and an increase in the child tax credit,” State Senator Rachel Ventura said in a statement. “Not only is there a significant investment in early education, but also in higher education. Investing in resources that provide everyone the opportunity to receive a quality education, regardless of their zip code, is critical to ensuring our youth are prepared for what comes after school.”

The change would mean that Illinois families with children under 12 could be offered an average of $300 to $600 in credits.

“With the passage of this budget, thousands of households – parents, caregivers and children in Illinois – will receive additional money each year to put food on the table, pay rent, get child care and meet other basic needs that no family in our state should go without,” State Senator Mike Simmons said in a statement.

Salary increases for MPs

According to Politico, the budget passed by the Senate also includes “cost-of-living increases of about five percent for state lawmakers.”

Last year, parliamentarians approved a salary increase of almost 16 percent.

It was the first increase since 2008. Since then, lawmakers have approved automatic cost-of-living adjustments that provide for increases in 2021 and 2022.

Training

Among the changes in the budget was a funding change that would allow many college and university students whose incomes are at or below the median income to have their tuition covered by MAP and federal Pell Grants.

There is also a $350 million increase in funding for elementary and secondary education, as provided for in a 2017 school funding reform, but that is a cut from what the state education agency had requested for state-mandated school operations. The budget includes an additional $75 million for early childhood education, which means 5,000 additional places, Gordon-Booth said.

Medical debt

The budget passed by the Senate also includes House Bill 5290, which would create a so-called Medical Debt Relief Program.

The program would wipe out the medical debt of an estimated 340,000 Illinois residents.

“When I became governor, I promised to put Springfield back on the side of working families,” the governor said on social media last month. “With my budget, Illinois will buy back up to $1 billion worth of medical debt for more than 300,000 state residents. This is the right thing to do.”

Financing for migrants

The proposal allocates $182 million to care for tens of thousands of asylum seekers in the United States, most of whom arrive by bus from Texas, where they cross the border. The proposal also allocates $440 million for health care for noncitizens.

Other notable items

One of the most striking items cut from the budget concerns money for professional sports stadiums.

Pritzker has made it clear that the state was not convinced by the idea of ​​using public funds to finance the stadium plans of the Chicago Bears or the Chicago White Sox. His press secretary called the plan a “no-go for the state.”

Political experts had speculated that lawmakers would likely delay this funding.

According to Senate President Don Harmon, the budget also includes:

  • A $350 million increase in funding for public schools across the state
  • Continued payments on long-term debt, including pension systems for civil servants, university employees and public school teachers.
  • $2 million to improve safety in reproductive health clinics.
  • Hiring 280 DCFS frontline staff

“This is a responsible, responsive and balanced budget for the great state of Illinois,” Harmon said in a statement. “It provides meaningful investments in our priorities and shared goals. I want to thank my colleagues in the Senate, Speaker of the House Welch and Governor Pritzker for all their work in crafting this plan.”

Anna Harden

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