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Thursday, March 30, 2023

Naperville’s Pulse in Springfield – Pritzker Promised a Truly Balanced Budget and Failed to Deliver


The General Assembly recently heard Governor Pritzker’s budget address, which serves as the blueprint for budget discussions for the next fiscal year. Leading up to the speech, Governor Pritzker promised bipartisanship in the 101st General Assembly. He also promised a truly balanced budget proposal with no gimmicks.

Unfortunately, rather than providing a responsible path forward for Illinois, the Governor presented a budget plan that relies on more than $1 billion in new revenue from initiatives he hopes the General Assembly will approve this year. New policy initiatives include licenses from the legalization of recreational marijuana and sports betting, higher taxes on a wide variety of products and services, a sharp increase in the video gaming tax, and a 5-cent tax on plastic grocery bags. None of these items has been presented to any House or Senate committee and none has been brought to either chamber for a vote.

The Pritzker budget also presumes lawmakers will approve a significant change to the Illinois Constitution, by providing for the implementation of a graduated income tax. He wants legislators to approve a graduated tax system, but provides no information of what new rates would be. Approve it blindly and then trust legislators to set rates responsibly? Really?

Perhaps the most troubling element of the Pritzker budget is a recommendation that the pension ramp be extended out another seven years. The proposal would save almost $900 million per year on the front end, but cost the state in the tens of billions or more in new debt over the long term. This “kicking the can down the road” is exactly the kind of irresponsible behavior that created Illinois’ pension crisis in the first place.

Our local teachers are also shortchanged through this budget. The Governor wants to decrease funding to the Teachers Retirement System (TRS) and funnel more money toward Chicago’s pension system. TRS money belongs to teachers who work hard to educate our kids and I will fight any effort to reallocate those funds.

Governor Pritzker offered no solutions that would increase jobs or the economy, or stop the out-migration of college students and other Illinois residents. Illinois can no longer afford to stand idle as our state’s finances continue to decline. I look forward to working collaboratively where I can to help solve our state’s fiscal problems, but I heard nothing in the budget address that would put Illinois onto a better path. We need real solutions, not more taxes and gimmicks.

Grant Wehrli
Grant Wehrli
Grant Wehrli is a lifelong Naperville Resident and former Representative in the Illinois House of Representatives and Naperville City Councilman.