Unions, Dems applaud Pritzker’s budget address

GOV. J.B. PRITZKER at the start of his annual budget address to the Illinois General Assembly.
– IL Department of Central Management Services

Illinois Correspondent

Springfield, IL – Illinois unions and supporters applauded Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s annual budget address last week, saying it will help balance the budget, create jobs and fund both education and public safety.

State Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Belleville) said he is looking forward to economic growth and stability.

“As we begin the conversation regarding the budget, my top priority as state representative is to put Illinois, especially the Metro-East, on a path toward long-term economic growth and stability,” said Hoffman, a long-time Labor supporter who is now an assistant majority leader of the House.

“The Metro-East, like all of Illinois, has suffered throughout this pandemic, and I’m committed to supporting infrastructure to improve the economic welfare of the region. The governor’s proposal is an introductory guideline as we look to create a balanced budget, create jobs and fund education and public safety.
“The budget address is only the beginning,” he added. “I look forward to further evaluating the governor’s proposal and getting in contact with my colleagues and community as the budget process progresses.”

One of the state’s largest unions, the Illinois Federation of Teachers, will be watching the budget process carefully, said its president, Dan Montgomery.

“The budget Gov. Pritzker proposed today prioritizes the needs of students and educators and the delivery of public services to our most vulnerable Illinoisans,” Montgomery said. “His proposed $350 million increase is a step toward adequately funding K-12 schools, especially in our neediest communities. But pre-K-12 funding is still billions of dollars short of the Evidence-Based Model funding target, which would provide the resources to educate every Illinois child well, no matter their zip code. We urge Gov. Pritzker and the General Assembly to work toward fully funding the Evidence-Based Model.”

It’s time to better support higher education, too, Montgomery said.

“Critically, the state’s higher education system is suffering from decades of disinvestment,” he said. “We are encouraged by the supplemental FY22 increase in funding for community colleges and universities that carries over to FY23. We urge the legislature to include this vital increase in higher education funding in the final budget.

“We also welcome the long-overdue recognition that the state must pay its bills – including the unfunded pension liability,” Montgomery added. “The governor has proposed $500 million in pension funding over and above the required payment. This saves the state money in the long term, and it’s the right thing to do.”

Finally, Montgomery said his union appreciates how Pritzker has worked to keep Illinois residents safe.

“From the start of the pandemic, Gov. Pritzker has steadfastly followed the science to protect our communities and move our state forward,” he said. “We thank him for establishing mask and vaccine mandates that are helping keep our schools open and students and staff safe.

State Rep. Katie Stuart (D-Edwardsville), said she was pleased the budget emphasizes helping families.

“Today, the governor proposed a budget with half a billion dollars in surplus to provide financial relief to working-class families. With the proposed surplus, we will meet our full pension liabilities and avoid interest, allowing for huge savings down the line,” she said. “Whether it’s through the proposed freeze on state grocery and gas taxes, the proposed property tax rebate or other measures, this budget proposal is just the beginning of our work to pass real financial relief for those who need it most.”

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