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Senate passes bipartisan, balanced budget

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Budget funds schools, protects human service programs

The Senate took a bipartisan vote today to approve a full-year, balanced budget that restores funding for important services and creates continued financial stability for Illinois.

“This budget is very much a reflection of both Republicans and Democrats, and I think that’s something we can all be proud of. This is truly how budget-making ought to work,” said State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), one of the chief budget negotiators. “This budget is balanced. It is disciplined. It is pragmatic. It approaches managing government from a perspective that I think we should all take.”

The budget is balanced through a combination of revenue and almost $600 million in cuts.

It includes $350 million in new funding for public schools, as established in the historic evidence-based formula passed last year, and an additional $50 million for early education.

Higher education institutions receive a 2 percent increase in funding, and MAP grants are extended to four years, giving college students the ability to plan for their future at schools in Illinois. To further encourage students to choose Illinois colleges and universities, the budget allots $25 million to a new grant program, AIM HIGH, that will provide additional tuition assistance.

Funding is also restored for vital human services programs, including: child care assistance program, addiction treatment and prevention services, community mental health services, autism programs, youth employment services, immigrant services and welcoming centers, and community youth services.

Also fully funded are the breast and cervical cancer screening program, the SIDS program, and tobacco use prevention and anti-smoking programs. $1.5 million is included for a new opioid overdose prevention program to address the opioid epidemic.

“Above all, the budget is an investment in our communities,” said Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago), another chief budget negotiator. “From funding for cities and towns to social services to providing educational opportunities, I believe that Illinoisans young and old will fare better under this budget than they have in years.”

The budget makes several changes to the governor’s proposal. Instead of shifting the cost of pensions to local schools, the budget includes a pension buyout option estimated to save over $400 million.

Group health for state employees will also continue to be fully funded, and the governor’s proposed 4 percent cut to Medicaid rates was not included.

Senator Toi Hutchinson (D-Olympia Fields), another budget negotiator, praised lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for their work on the budget.

“This is how the process is supposed to happen. It’s an example of who we are supposed to be. When we do what we are supposed to do in this building, everything else can be handled. We are going to lay the groundwork to pass a budget that benefits our state, and I couldn’t be more proud,” Hutchinson said.

The Democrats’ fourth budget negotiator, Senator Elgie R. Sims, Jr. (D-Chicago), said lawmakers can return proud to their districts.

“We will be able to tell our constituents that we passed a budget that is balanced, is fair and most importantly is bipartisan,” Sims said. “That’s what they have been asking for. Today’s product shows that when we work together, great things happen.”