(The Center Square) – Illinois’ governor is calling out what he calls “carnival barkers” while critics say his plan for the state is a “woke wishlist.”
Gov. J.B. Pritzker proposed a new spending plan at nearly $50 billion Wednesday, an increase in spending by more than $3 billion from the current fiscal year’s budget.
The proposed spending plan would be the largest in state history. However, the plan does spend slightly less when considering a supplemental appropriation approved in last month’s lame-duck for the current fiscal year.
In previewing his proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, Pritzker touted paying off backlogged bills over his first term, securing several credit upgrades and boosting the state’s rainy day fund.
“Which is why here in Illinois in 2023, I’m confident in saying the state of our state is stronger than it has been in decades and we’re getting stronger every day,” Pritzker told a joint session of the General Assembly in Springfield.
Pritzker touted his budget proposal for spending billions of additional taxpayer dollars on new programs like universal pre-K while setting aside some for emergencies.
“What was once a state with no cushion to protect it in an economic downturn is now an Illinois on track to have a $2.3 billion rainy day fund,” Pritzker said.
The budget proposal has more than $300 million in reserves, with more than $160 million planned to go to the state’s rainy day fund.
Immediately after the speech Wednesday, state Sen. Steve McClure, R-Springfield, told The Center Square the spending request neglects to fully address a possible economic downturn.
“We have heard from the governor’s office and others in this building that they do predict there is going to be some sort of a recession,” McClure said. “They didn’t know how severe it was going to be. If that’s the case, which I think most people agree that there is going to be a recession, I think you need to be more frugal with your funds. We are not seeing that with this budget.”
Pritzker said his budget “does everything possible to invest in the education of our children.”
“Yet it’s all meaningless if we become a nation that bans books from school libraries about racism suffered by Roberto Clemente and Hank Aaron, and tells kids they can’t talk about being gay,” Pritzker said.
State Rep. Adam Niemerg, R-Dieterich, criticized the governor’s priorities with more than $2.7 billion in new spending and said more focus needs to be on growing the state’s economy.
“It’s a woke wishlist, is really what we’re dealing with here,” Niemerg told The Center Square. “The governor had the audacity again to call us ‘carnival barkers,’ but he’s running the carnival and he’s driving the carnival off the leftist cliff.”
Republicans and other critics have noted that the state in recent years has been boosted by federal COVID-19 relief dollars, money that is going away.
Lawmakers will take the governor’s proposal and craft a spending plan that is set to begin July 1.