Sen. President Don Harmon

SPRINGFIELD — Democratic members of the Illinois State Senate were generally pleased with Governor JB Pritzker’s second budget proposal. It highlighted that they and the governor share many of the same priorities to move Illinois forward and achieve permanent budget stability and government functionality.

The governor’s budget included large proposed increases to early childhood education funding, need-based financial aid programs for college students, and for a number of important social services programs that help grant people with disabilities and seniors lives filled with comfort and dignity. Democratic senators commented on many of the items they felt were most important in the proposal.

Illinois Senate President Don Harmon found much to like in Gov. JB Pritzker’s budget plan and singled out higher education and early childhood programs as two key issues likely to draw support from lawmakers. His response to the proposal:

“The governor unveiled a solid proposal, a budget based in reality that starts an important conversation about where our state is going and what kind of state it will be. I applaud his emphasis on the need to tackle college affordability and his recognition that early childhood education is the best investment we can make in our future.

“The bottom line is this proposal is a great starting place for the work we’ll do in the coming weeks, work that I hope will again bring Republicans, Democrats and the governor together in balancing the budget, funding priorities and moving Illinois forward.”

“As a career-long advocate for early childhood education, I am excited to hear that Governor Pritzker intends to invest and strengthen programs that support children from birth to age five. Beyond that, he has a plan to invest in all levels of education, suicide prevention and criminal justice," said Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood). “The budgeting process is always difficult, but starting with a vision focused on our most vulnerable populations is always a good beginning.”

“I’m glad to see that Governor Pritzker is continuing to maintain his commitment to making a high quality education available for students at all levels,” said Assistant Majority Leader/ President Pro Tempore Bill Cunningham, a Democrat who represents portions of Chicago and the southwest suburbs. “These funding increases would be a significant win for students and educators throughout the state.”

More members of Harmon's leadership team shared their reactions:

Deputy Majority Leader Laura Murphy (D-Des Plaines): “I agree with the governor that investments in economic development and our higher education system should be top priorities—however, I was disappointed that the proposal did not include concrete solutions to address the skyrocketing cost of property taxes. I look forward to working with the governor and my fellow lawmakers to negotiate a budget that implements the recommendations of the Property Tax Relief Task Force and extends a helping hand to struggling Illinois families.”

Assistant Majority Leader Tony Munoz (D-Chicago): “I’m looking forward to building on last year’s budget, which pivoted our state in the right direction. Governor Pritzker mentioned a number of possible investments in areas that are important to the communities I represent, like education from birth to college, the Community Care Program and public safety.”

Assistant Majority Leader Iris Y. Martinez (D-Chicago): “I support the ideas in this proposal to invest more state funds in student misconduct investigation cases and child care programs to ensure safety and accountability for our youth, as well as census outreach opportunities to prioritize a correct count this year."

Assistant Majority Leader Linda Holmes (D-Aurora): “I was happy to hear the governor’s intention to not only pay the required full pension payment, but to potentially fund another $100 million to pay down our pension debt. This addresses a complex but ongoing need to reduce our pension liability faster."

Assistant Majority Leader Dave Koehler (D-Peoria): “Overall, I’m pleased with where the governor is proposing we focus our attention fiscally. By prioritizing these initiatives, we are meeting our mandate to provide quality services people can rely on: cleaning up coal ash waste and creating a program to provide access to training for careers in infrastructure and trade industry."

Majority Caucus Chair Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago): “I was pleased the governor proposed rate increases for Medicaid providers and Community Care Program providers, as well as significant overhauls and investments in the Department of Children and Family Services. Pritzker’s budget puts Illinois on the right path toward equitable delivery of human resources for children and families."

State Senator Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago): “I have said many times that a budget is a moral document. It lays out in black and white the things that our society values. Especially in light of this governor’s immediate predecessor, this year’s proposal reaffirms my belief that any arguments we have about funding methods do not change the fact we are working toward realizing a stronger and more just society in Illinois.”

And more senators' reactions:

State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker): “I appreciate the governor’s commitment to funding education, but it is concerning that the proposal leaves open the possibility that our budget may not meet the established progress we expect toward school funding equity. In any case, in any tax structure, the right to a high-quality public education doesn’t change, nor does our responsibility under the law to see it through.”

State Senator Celina Villanueva (D-Chicago): “We need to make Illinois a state that treats early childhood development with the importance it deserves. That’s why I strongly support the governor’s proposal to increase the early childhood education funding by $50 million.”

State Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Plainfield): “I’m glad to see the governor’s commitment to ensure the state’s workforce is meeting the needs of the employers. Innovative job training programs will help put residents to work and grow our economy for generations to come.”

State Senator Elgie R. Sims, Jr. (D-Chicago): “I am pleased the governor is renewing his commitment to provide a quality education for our young people. I support his pledge to increase investments in P-12 schools and MAP Grants for college students. These resources are crucial to set students on a path toward success."

State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago): “We traditionally take the governor’s budget proposal as a starting point, and this year it’s a good place to begin. It couples savings in employee health care and reduced interest payments, with needed investment in education, human services and our child welfare system. It also fully funds our pension systems and shores up the state’s rainy day fund to better position Illinois for an economic downturn.”

State Senator Robert Martwick (D-Chicago), in response to the budget proposal's additional $20.6 million toward the Chicago Veterans’ Home, which will likely enable it to open in late 2020: “We owe it to our former service members to take care of their health and security as they age,” Martwick said. “Opening the Chicago Veterans’ Home is a promise that we need to keep.”

State Senator Patrick Joyce (D-Essex), regarding a $100 million increase in funding for the Child Care Assistance Program, which would help provide high quality care for an additional 140,000 children: “Finding affordable child care can be the difference between success and poverty for young families. Expanding this program will help so many people establish their careers and get college degrees.”

State Senator Rachelle Crowe (D-Glen Carbon): “Increasing the state’s investment in the Monetary Award Program (MAP) while dedicating 15% of the total awards to students wanting to attend a community college, as well as funding a new ‘Illinois Works’ job-training program recognizes the importance of education and vital contributions given by labor and building trades, thus supporting and building the working class."

State Senator Cristina Castro (D-Elgin) Every year that I’ve been in office, the General Assembly has fully funded the pension program and I’m pleased the governor’s proposed budget will continue that trend. As the new chair of the Senate Revenue Committee, I look forward to working with Gov. Pritzker to fulfill our responsibilities to Illinois families and keep our state on a path toward stability."

State Senator Julie Morrison (D-Lake Forest), on the proposed more than $100 million in additional funding for DCFS: “DCFS has experienced more turmoil in the past decade than any other state agency. While not all of the agency’s problems revolve around funding, many of the high-profile failures come from it being cash-strapped and squandering its meager resources. There is no question the agency needs more employees and resources to hire highly trained workers who have the determination and emotional stability to take on one of the toughest jobs. I applaud the governor’s commitment to help this already at-risk group of children.”

State Senator Steve Stadelman (D-Rockford): “I’m pleased to see the governor is continuing his commitment to fund local education. Additional money for the state’s school funding formula will greatly benefit Rockford-area schools and its residents. Over the last several years, the Rockford School District’s property tax rate dropped significantly thanks to the new formula.”

State Senator Ann Gillespie (D-Arlington Heights): “There were many laudable goals in the governor’s proposal today, and as we begin the work of negotiating a budget in the General Assembly, I want to ensure we don’t lose sight of many of them. I know what my constituents demand: A budget that is balanced, that ensures we continue the growth and investment in our public schools of the last few years, and that deals honestly with the state’s pension obligations. We may be appropriating a budget for the coming year, but we are also creating the first part of a road map for the many years to come. For the future of Illinois, we need a responsible budget.”

State Senator Christopher Belt (D-Centreville): ”I appreciate Gov. Pritzker proposing funding for additional personnel to allow appropriate staffing ratios at corrections facilities across the state. I spent 16 years with the St. Clair County Probation and Detention Center and two years as the regional deputy administrator of Aftercare for the central and southern regions of Illinois, so I strongly applaud him for considering the safety of our correctional officers."

State Senator Laura Fine (D-Glenview): “I was heartened to hear Gov. Pritzker reaffirm his commitment to reforming our state’s juvenile justice system in his budget proposal. For too long, the incarceration of children has caused lasting harm to families and communities across the state. The lack of restorative justice alternatives available for these youths is a lost opportunity for progress and rehabilitation that has proven devastating for generations of Illinoisans."

State Senator Suzy Glowiak Hilton (D-Western Springs): “Businesses are growing and unemployment is shrinking in Illinois, and I’m glad to see that the proposed budget aims to continue that trend,” said Glowiak Hilton. “The One-Stop New Business Permitting Portal is a step forward in making Illinois the best state for new businesses to set up shop.”