Local lawmakers react to the state budget for the fiscal year 2021

Illinois Capitol News

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — COVID-19 sidelined the statehouse from gathering in person for 11 weeks. The special legislative session crammed four months of work into four days. Lawmakers voted along party lines.

Illinois’ new $39.8 billion budget for the fiscal year 2021 expanded funding. An extra $59.2 million given as a lifeline to assist the Illinois Department of Employment Security while it manages a record number of unemployment claims.

“IDES has been a complete disaster,” said state representative Tim Butler (R) Springfield. “The website has been a failure. We’ve had security breaches. People can’t get their money. There’s fraud going on, so the agency really needs to get its stuff together.”

“What the majority party did was they pushed forward $2 billion more in spending in the FY21 budget than they did in the FY20 budget. $2 billion more in spending in a time when we have a huge deficit, unemployment,” said State Representative Dan Brady (R) Bloomington. “We as republicans were not a part of any type of negotiations and certainly couldn’t vote for a budget that of all things had a pay raise.”

State Senator Jason Barickman’s staff said the cost for the General assembly and General Assembly Leadership is $382,800 General Revenue Fund (GRF).  This figure does not include fringe benefits associated with an increase.  All members would receive about $1,800 added to their base salary from $69,464 to $71,270.  In addition, all leadership and chairperson stipends would increase by 2.6%.

In total, the state is asking for $5 billion dollars from the Federal Cares Act.

“It’s a line of credit,” said State Senator Dave Koehler (D) Peoria. “It’s not an automatic $5 billion loan. It’s a line of credit so we will only borrow as we need to. The interest rate is 3.8% which is very good. So we’ll only use that sparingly and then we’ll come back in November veto session, which is scheduled to go on Nov. 17, we’ll take a look at what has happened with state revenues. We’ll see what the federal government has done to help us with our shortfall and we’ll be able to adjust the budget at that point.”

The massive financial ask is not sitting well with some republicans.

“We kind of thought we should hold off on the budget until later in June when we actually knew what the federal stimulus would be” said State Senator Bill Brady, (R) Bloomington. “Democrats seemed to be in a position to want to get this done and didn’t want to wait until June.”

“We have a chance to make that help available, and again, this would be paid for by the Federal Government,” said Greg Harris, House Majority Leader. “It would not be paid for through our General Revenue fund. But we have to jump at the chance to assist.”

State Senator Jason Barickman said Tuesday, he thinks taxpayers will be disappointed seeing the quote ‘status quo’ happening in Springfield.

“Legislature convened,” said State Senator Jason Barickman (R) Bloomington. “It’s relying on some combination of tax increases, higher spending, more borrowing, and not understanding I think the way taxpayers want us to approach the budget-making process.”

“The democratic process allows for elections to be held and then representatives from each district to go forward and be a voice, a vote for the district,” said Sen. Barickman. “I recognize as a republican that we have more work to do in the election cycle to win those seats. We worked with the democrats up until the vote to try to come together on a balanced budget. It just wasn’t there.”

“We have gone through an unprecedented pandemic and all revenues for all units of government are down,” said Sen. Koehler. “Fortunately the federal government has stepped in and said here’s a line of credit you can use in the meantime until we get it straightened out what we’re going to provide.”

The house and senate are not scheduled to return again until the fall veto session.

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