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Republicans Say They're Still Waiting On Pritzker's Budget Cut Ideas

Brian Mackey
NPR Illinois

  Illinois House Republicans say they’re still waiting on Gov. JB Pritzker to propose specific spending cuts to the state’s current year state budget, which is $4 billion out of balance.

Ahead of lawmakers’ lame duck session this week, Republicans said they worried Democrats would try to push through an income tax hike instead of cut spending, but those fears are largely baseless.as Governor J.B. Pritzker has not signaled support for an immediate tax increase, but rather said he’s focused on making cuts to state government.

Though Republicans often hearken back to a middle-of-the-night income tax increase during a Lame Duck session in early 2011, spokesmen for top Democrats say that’s not in the cards this time, according to reporting from WBEZ.

When Democrats pushed through a $40 billion state budget in a truncated session last May, they were still counting on Pritzker’s signature graduated income tax referendum passing, which would have brought in an estimated $3.4 billion annually. Additionally, Democrats were crossing their fingers for more federal aid to state and local governments.

But neither happened, and even with a planned $2 billion in federal borrowing and proposed $700 million in budget cuts Pritzker can make unilaterally, the state’s budget is still more than $1 billion out of balance. 

Pritzker last month said he wanted to work with lawmakers to identify additional budget cuts he can’t make by himself. But Republicans want Pritzkerr to first provide insight on potential budget cuts based on a request the governor made to his agency heads in 2019, asking them to identify 6.5% cuts to their operations.

“I had a conversation with the governor, and the three legislative leaders, within days after the election and I asked Governor Pritzker point blank to provide a list of the cuts that he had directed his agencies to do back in 2019,”  House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) said during a news conference Monday. “Still to this day we have not heard from him.” 

Republicans, like Representative Dan Brady (R-Bloomington), also accused Democrats of being disingenuous in budget negotiations. 

“All those extra services and programs that were passed, they all require state funding to operate,”  Brady said. “While the Democrats hit send on the press releases announcing them, they never let you know after the fact that a tax hike will be required to pay for them.”

Hannah covers state government and politics for Capitol News Illinois. She's been dedicated to the statehouse beat since interning at NPR Illinois in 2014, with subsequent stops at WILL-AM/FM, Law360, Capitol Fax and The Daily Line before returning to NPR Illinois in 2020 and moving to CNI in 2023.
Derek Cantù is NPR Illinois' graduate student Public Affairs Reporting intern for the spring 2021 legislative session.
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