Finally, this year the General Assembly’s spring legislative session concluded with good news for Illinois families and businesses – a bi-partisan budget agreement reached on time and with no new taxes! The FY 2019 state budget was set to go into effect on July 1. It totals $38.5 billion and increases funding for education while actually curbing state spending as a whole.
Here are some of the highlights:
- Blocks New Spending. The Governor and Republican leaders staved off $1 billion in spending increases by aggressively managing agency budgets and tabling $500 million in spending increase proposals. That’s a billion and a half dollars in much-needed spending restraint.
Education. The budget fully funds the new evidence-based formula the administration introduced in 2015 and signed into law last summer. There’s $350 million in new K-12 dollars, and $50 million for Early Childhood
- Education. AIM HIGH scholarships get $50 million to encourage Illinois high grads to attend Illinois universities. The MAP grant program is funded for four years. Colleges get $25 million of new money and the tuition tax credit program stays intact.
- Pension Reform. The legislature addressed pension costs by making some modest reforms that will reduce long-term liabilities and save $445 million this year.
- Adoption Tax Credit. Parents who can provide stable, loving homes for needy children can qualify for tax credits up to $5,000 per child.
- Illinois Innovation Network. The budget gives the University of Illinois System $500 million to fund the new Discovery Partners Institute. DPI envisions a research and business public-private partnership that involves the entire Illinois university system and business innovators. U of I System estimates that the effort could spark $4 billion in annual invested capital for Illinois and create hundreds of thousands of jobs.
As with any compromise this budget isn’t perfect, but I believe it is a responsible plan that funds our priorities and provides much needed stability for our communities. That having been said, I do continue to take issue with the process. I firmly believe we need to start each spring by adopting a realistic revenue estimate before we begin discussions on spending. I also believe there needs to be more openness and public input in the budget discussions.
We must also continue working to reduce the tax burden on families and employers. This year we were able to fend off for now Democrat proposals to implement a new, graduated income tax increase that would hurt working families, and a proposal for a new statewide property tax. Our property taxes are already among the highest in the nation. It’s mind-boggling that anyone would propose adding to that burden.