SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (NEXSTAR) — At the budget address Wednesday, Governor J.B. Pritzker announced several policy initiatives he’d like to see implemented in the upcoming budget.
The budget proposal totals up to $49.6 billion in spending and plans for a $300 million dollar surplus.
The governor highlighted several new programs he wants to launch with the new budget, including major new investments in early childhood education. He also wants to increase MAP grant funding and investments in social services and violence prevention.
Universal preschool proposal
The governor announced Smart Start Illinois, a plan to increase early childcare options across the state. Pritzker estimates his policy proposal will cost $250 million for the 2024 fiscal year budget.
Pritzker believes the investment in childcare will save taxpayers money in the long run.
“Enhancing quality early care and education is a win-win solution for re-mobilizing parents in the workforce, enhancing brain development and kindergarten readiness, saving taxpayers money, and increasing economic activity now and in the decades ahead,” he said in his address.
The governor wants to continue making the recommended contribution to the State’s Evidence Based Funding model for K-12 schools across the state.
The $350 million contribution would be right in line with what the program requires of the state, but advocates have said a larger injection now would have a far greater impact on schools than having to pay more down the road.
The Evidence Based Funding Model was created in 2017. It allocates state funds to schools that need the money based on adequacy ratings. The higher the school’s adequacy rating, the less money the school needs from the state. Schools with lower adequacy ratings will get more money from the state, with the ultimate goal of raising that rating.
MAP grant funding
Governor Pritzker also wants to continue increasing money for MAP Grants — or the grants given to students who can’t afford college on their own. The proposal increases the budget for the MAP grant fund by $100 million, which would bring the grand total to 700 million dollars.
According to projections from the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, this increased investment would give enough money for all students whose families are at or below the median level of income to attend community college for free through MAP grants and Federal PELL grants.
“Together with Pell grants, virtually everyone at or below median income in Illinois can go to community college tuition-free,” Pritzker said. “That means higher wages and better jobs in healthcare, IT, construction management, manufacturing, accounting, and much more.”
More DCFS caseworkers
Governor Pritzker wants to increase the funding for the Department of Children and Family Services by $54 million. The money would go to more staff as well as safety devices for lone workers and training staff with pepper spray.
Illinois State Police recruitment
The budget proposal also includes money for two new cadet classes for the Illinois State Police. Over the past couple of years, the Illinois State Police went on a recruiting push, and brought in several new recruiting classes.
“With increased patrols and technology, ISP cut the number of homicides on Chicago area expressways by 88% and shootings dropped nearly in half,” Pritzker said. “That’s real progress, and this year’s budget continues funding the hiring of additional troopers and upgrading the tools to catch perpetrators.”
The governor announced a plan to curb homelessness across the state by increasing funding across the state for the Department of Human Services, including more funding for permanent supportive housing and homeless shelter support. He estimates about $350 million would go to curb homelessness.
“We will have failed everyone in Illinois if we don’t place a higher priority on tackling poverty — because fewer people living in financial distress means a better quality of life for everyone in our state,” he said.