Gov. J.B. Pritzker is proposing raising more than $1 billion in state revenue by legalizing recreational marijuana and sports betting.
The Democrat delivered his plan for a $39 billion budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. He said it focuses on spending for education, health and human services, and public safety.
Pritzker campaigned on legalizing marijuana and on Wednesday called for legalized sports betting. He also wants a tax on insurance companies.
Illinois Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, said Pritzker's proposed fix for the underfunded state pension problem is not a permanent solution.
The Bloomington Republican said after the governor's budget speech he does not think the proposal will work.
Pritzker's proposal is based in part on deferring pension payments, transferring assets and changing the Illinois Constitution to allow for a graduated income tax.
“This idea that we will get through this year with a temporary alteration and rely on future revenues generated from a graduated income tax I think is the wrong approach,” Bill Brady said.
The senator said he doubts a graduated income tax proposal would pass a statewide referendum with the needed 60 percent margin to allow a constitutional amendment.
State Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, said hearing Pritzker call for a five percent funding increase for higher education in his budget address was "music to his ears."
He noted that would lead to a $3.4 million funding increase for Illinois State University.
However, the Illinois House Deputy Republican Leader from Bloomington said he has questions about whether Pritzker's revenue estimates are realistic.
Dan Brady said the governor's plan to pay down pension debt, in part through a progressive income tax, would hurt not just the rich but also the middle class.
“What’s being proposed, the way I am reading it, is kind of like being off your house mortgage, starting another one then at a higher rate than what you had before,” Dan Brady said.
He said he would support the concept of legalized sports gambling, but not legalizing recreational marijuana.
Dan Brady added Pritzer has yet to show he is willing to reach out to Republicans, based on how he pushed through the minimum wage increase.
GOP State Sen. Jason Barickman of Bloomington said Pritzker showed he is relying on failed policies of the past in his budget address with more borrowing, spending, and taxing.
Barickman said calling the budget balanced is questionable, since much of the governor's proposal relies on action of the legislature this session. One being the legalization of recreational marijuana.
Barickman said it's possible to see revenue from legalization in the coming fiscal year, but that there is much work to be done before that.
“We are getting the cart ahead of the horse there in counting and booking those revenues when all of the details haven’t been worked out,” Barickman said.
Barickman said including revenue from recreational marijuana business licenses is possible, but only if a secure legalization bill is on the table before then.
A Democratic leader in the Illinois Senate said legalizing recreational marijuana and sports gambling won't solve the state's budget problems, but they can be a start.
State Sen. Dave Koehler of Peoria, the assistant majority leader, said the state should take advantage of two industries that are already doing business in the state.
“What we have to do is recognize all different possible avenues of getting new revenue and these are two that I think should be explored and I would support them,” Koehler said.
Koehler said he expects the state's voters will support a graduated income tax - that's one of the governor's key revenue sources - because he says it could be set up similar to the federal tax code.
Legislators have until the end of session in May to pass a state budget for the 2020 fiscal year which begins July 1.
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