inaug ftr 021523SPRINGFIELD – Members of the Illinois Senate Democratic Caucus heard the governor’s state budget proposal Wednesday and will immediately begin bipartisan, bicameral conversations to bring forth a balanced budget that prioritizes Illinoisans in all corners of the state.

“We have labored for years to build a solid, stable fiscal foundation for the state of Illinois. Because of those responsible decisions, we find ourselves in the position to be able to invest in our future and do so in a way that can make a real difference,” said Senate President Don Harmon (D-Oak Park). “I applaud the governor for starting this conversation and for setting priorities that hopefully can bring people together in bipartisan support."

The proposed budget focuses on early childhood education, child care, higher education and efforts to end poverty – all while fully paying off COVID-related debt, putting $250 million toward funding College Illinois!, paying off over $4 million of the UI Trust Fund advance, and putting over $1.9 billion into the Rainy Day Fund.

It prioritizes business attraction and development, workforce training, economic assistance programs and more. It includes funds to support job creation, improve commercial corridors and attract new businesses to the state.

“Throughout recent years – and despite the turmoil that was brought forth due to the pandemic – Illinois has put itself in the greatest financial situation it has seen in years,” said State Senator Elgie R. Sims, Jr. (D-Chicago) – chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “As a General Assembly, we have a responsibility to continue on a path of fiscal stability by passing a balanced budget that prioritizes the people, groups and agencies that need the most help.”

Building upon the success of the last year’s budget, the budget proposal would invest in education from preschool to college. The proposal would put a total of $250 million toward a new program – SMART Start Illinois – a multi-year program to provide investments in preparing children to be lifelong learners. This includes increasing preschool availability and Early Childhood Block Grants.

Further, the proposal continues level K-12 funding. It prioritizes not just students, but builds the teacher pipeline by providing recruitment and retention funding.

The proposed budget includes the largest higher education funding increase in two decades. This includes record funding for need-based financial aid to ensure students can afford college through the MAP Grant program.

“When people think of early childhood, of course they consider supports for child care and the school system, but often don’t consider that early childhood development is about early experiences and therefore is affected by the family’s wages, living conditions, and access to high quality health care among many other factors,” said State Senator Cristina Pacione-Zayas (D-Chicago) – chair of the Senate Early Childhood Committee. “The budget proposal is an amazing start to address these issues, and I look forward to collaborating with the governor and my colleagues to invest in our children.”

Members of the Illinois Senate Democratic Caucus will now spend the following weeks negotiating the budget.

“Senate Democrats look forward to the opportunity to explore it in greater detail in the weeks and months ahead,” Harmon said.