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Illinois House Sends $38 Billion Budget To Rauner

Rich Saal
The State Journal-Register/Pool
The proposal goes to Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

The Illinois House has approved a $38.5 billion state budget for the year that begins July 1.

The lopsided 97-14 vote Thursday in the House followed Wednesday night's overwhelming Senate approval. State Reps. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, and Keith Sommer, R-Morton, supported the budget package.

The proposal goes to Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. Rauner's budget director, Hans Zigmund, attended the House debate.

“We started this year’s budget process with the common-sense goals of a full-year balanced budget and no new taxes. With this budget, we can come as close as any General Assembly and governor in Illinois have in a very long time," Rauner said in a statement Thursday. "It's a step in the right direction, though it does not include much-needed debt paydown and reforms that would reduce taxes, grow our economy, create jobs and raise family incomes.

"The Fiscal Year 2019 budget is the result of bipartisan effort and compromise," Rauner added. "We worked together to provide a budget to the people of Illinois that can be balanced, with hard work and continued bipartisan effort to deliver on the promises it makes. I’ll be taking action quickly to enact the Fiscal Year 2019 budget into law.”

Democrats and Republicans both applauded the bipartisan cooperation on this year's budget. It is in stark contrast to the last three years. Rauner and Democrats who control the General Assembly couldn't agree on a plan in 2015 or 2016. Lawmakers forced through an income tax increase last summer that provides revenue that made this year's deal easier to complete.

Schools and Higher Education

The budget creates a $50 million scholarship fund to keep Illinois students from leaving the state for college. It also provides includes $400 million of K-12 funding for early childhood education, and it maintains the new funding formula passed last year.

Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said funding for education was one of his top priorities during the negotiations.

“This is a budget that I think we should be proud of, and the fact that it’s bipartisan is a good sign of stability. That’s the most important thing we should do after three really tough years," Cullerton said.

Behavioral Health

Behavioral health service providers in Illinois would see a slight rate increase under the budget.

Sara Howe, CEO of the Illinois Association for Behavioral Health, said the budget comes with a 3 percent rate increase for substance abuse treatment. It also makes permanent a 3 percent rate increase for mental health services that was implemented last year. 

But Howe said the increases are small relative to the costs of providing the care.

"We’re talking about 40 percent differences probably between what the cost of services are and what we get. So we certainly ... nobody got massive rate increases," Howe said.

Cities and Towns

The Illinois Municipal League (IML) issued a statement because the budget imposes a 5 percent cut to the Local Government Distributive Fund (LGDF), impacting cities across Illinois.

"Mayors across Illinois understand the state's unique challenges and recognize the General Assembly's efforts to mitigate obstacles facing communities, including limiting cuts to LGDF and reducing the sales tax administrative fee from 2 to 1.5 percent," IML Executive Director Brad Cole said in a statement. "Unfortunately, this is the second year in a row that LGDF has been cut. These funds are necessary to keep local tax burdens down and fund local programs such as critical infrastructure repairs and improvements, public works and public safety personnel and other programs and services to meet public wants and needs.

"Overall, municipalities across the state continue to face economic hurdles and unfunded mandates from the state capitol," Cole added. "While we appreciate that lawmakers have made some strides to limit the fiscal impact, we urge them to thoroughly understand the challenges facing local governments, which means fully funding and protecting local revenues."

The bills are HB109 and HB3342.

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
Christine Herman spent nine years studying chemistry before she left the bench to report on issues at the intersection of science and society. She started in radio in 2014 as a journalism graduate student at the University of Illinois and a broadcast intern at Radio Health Journal. Christine has been working at WILL since 2015.
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