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Senate Dems pass budget for state's stability and certainty

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 After months of Republican requests for more time on a bipartisan budget deal, Senate Democrats decided the people of Illinois have waited long enough and today passed a balanced budget for Fiscal Year 2018.

The budget passed balances Governor Rauner’s proposed $37.3 billion budget, eliminating its $4.5 billion hole with a mix of cuts and revenues.

Included in the budget are $3 billion in cuts and reductions to government spending. Numerous Rauner agency heads were unable to name any cuts in appropriations hearings over the past several months.

At a press conference after the Senate adjourned following the budget votes, Senate President John Cullerton said, "We're stabilizing the finances and ending the chaos that this impasse has created."

“Coupled with the reforms we’ve already passed this spring and ones will continue to look at, I think we are well on our way to sending to Gov. Rauner a plan that should meet all of his requirements to stop holding the state of Illinois hostage after two years,” said Senator Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat and sponsor of SB42, the budget implementation piece of the budget package.

The plan also ensures public schools will be able to open this fall, providing $330 million in additional funding, along with $35 million for early childhood education programs and grants for after school programs and advanced placement classes.

“It is completely irresponsible for anyone to let this situation continue another day,” State Senator Toi Hutchinson (D – Chicago Heights) said. “Every week that goes by without acting, Illinois digs itself into deeper and deeper into a financial hole that will eventually be impossible to dig out of. It’s past time to do something for the good of our state.”

Hutchinson is lead Senate sponsor of Senate Bill 9, which includes slight increases to the personal and corporate income tax, an expansion of Illinois’ sales tax to include certain services, the elimination of three corporate tax loopholes and the creation of a new tax credit for teachers who purchase classroom supplies.  

“Over the course of this impasse, Illinois has been lacking stability. This has hurt many people, especially students and the schools that they attend,” said Senator Omar Aquino, a Chicago Democrat. “It is time to invest in our people again.”

Universities and community colleges will also get much-needed stability, with more funding than they have received in the past two years, and students can regain certainty about going to college with the return of MAP grant funding.

“We have been limping along for the last two years and allowed our higher education infrastructure to be decimated,” said Senator Bill Cunningham, a Chicago Democrat. “Universities and colleges across the state need stable and certain funding to ensure they can keep doors open and provide students an excellent education for their students.”

A variety of human services programs will be reinstated, including: autism support, youth employment, Teen Reach, community youth services, immigrant services and addiction prevention services. Additionally, for the first time in years, vital human service programs will receive full funding, including: the Community Care Program, breast and cervical cancer screenings, addiction treatment, early intervention, domestic violence shelters, mental health programs and child care services.

“Having witnessed last week that Republicans won’t even support their own budget plan, Democrats put forth a budget that better reflects our priorities and those of our constituents, including health care for the poor, funding for public schools and universities, tax credits for the working poor and for teachers, and vital services for those who need our help the most," said Senator Don Harmon, Oak Park Democrat. “And because we also passed a series of good-government reforms – including my government purchasing reform bill, a government consolidation bill and a term limit rule for Senate leadership –this is a budget Gov. Rauner should be able to sign into law when it gets to his desk."

The legislation comprising the budget will now head to the House for consideration.

Other Senate Democrats reacted to passage of the budget package today:

"After months of meeting and negotiating the grand bargain, nothing got done," said Senator Donne Trotter, who sponsored Senate Bill 521, a bond measure to provide mental health services in state prisons and to update the state government's IT infrastructure. Responding to complaints about needing more time to negotiate and being left out of today's proposals, Trotter said, "Ideas from your side are in these bills."

“I acted today to do what my constituents and all Illinoisans have demanded: To bring an end to the disorder and negligence caused by the lack of a state budget. Government’s first duty is to safeguard all of its citizens,” said Senator Jacqueline Collins, a Chicago Democrat. “In that duty, we have been irresponsible for more than two years. Now is the time to take responsibility. With each passing day, there are those for whom it will be too late. Now is the time for the House and for Governor Rauner to come together on a budget.”

“Lawmakers have a responsibility to the people back home. We must put an end to this chaos and get Illinois back on track,” said Senator James F. Clayborne, a Belleville Democrat. We cannot wait any longer. The longer we go without a budget, the longer seniors go without meals on wheels, people go without Medicaid to receive cancer treatment and at-risk youth have no place to go after school. I hope to see this plan continue to progress.”

“This plan spends only as much as Governor Rauner had planned to spend in his budget proposals,” Senator Linda Holmes of Aurora said. “Unlike Governor Rauner’s most recent proposal, it uses a combination of cuts and revenues to achieve balance. By approving this plan, we have done our part to give the people and businesses of Illinois the stability and certainty that they deserve.”

"Governor Rauner touts a pro-business agenda, but his disastrous policies have nearly broken our state, hurting existing businesses and making Illinois unattractive to new ones," Senator Kwame Raoul of Chicago said. "The business community has made their voice heard, and what they want is the stability that comes from passing a balanced budget, the state paying its bills on time and securing revenue for necessary services."