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Q&A: Sen. Barickman Says Gov. Pritzker Not Willing To Work With Republicans On Budget

Jason Barickman
State Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, says there needs to be less spending in the state's budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Illinois Republicans continue to criticize what they say is an unbalanced budget proposal from Gov. JB Pritzker. The Senate Republican floor leader is no exception.

Jason Barickman of Bloomington said the governor is too willing to chastise Republicans instead of negotiating with the party. The party is in a super-minority in both houses.

Pritzker's proposal decreases state spending by $1.8 billion. His plan includes closing more than $900 million in corporate tax loopholes.

WGLT spoke with Barickman about the direction he wants to see budget talks take.

You've criticized Pritzker's budget proposal as "more smoke and mirrors." How would you go about balancing the budget?

Last year, the governor put forward a budget proposal, and through months of negotiations, what we concluded is the governor had no interest in negotiating with Republicans. In fact, he advanced what everyone characterized as a wildly unbalanced budget. He pushed it forward on a partisan vote, and we today are in a much worse position as a result of that disastrous budget going into this year.

We don't know yet if the governor is going to engage in negotiation with us again, or if he's going to push us away from those negotiations. We think that the governor's budget proposal needs to be reined in, that the state should be spending less money, that we need to reform the way in which our state spends the money that it has. But we need a willing partner in the governor's office who says "I'm willing to sit down and engage on that," and thus far, we just haven't seen that at all from him.

What specifically needs to be cut?

What you've seen is continued growth in spending, and what the governor would like to do is have a public, you know, chastising of the ideas that the Republicans put forward, rather than sit down and negotiate it. So we have continually offered reforms. You know, during the last budget cycle, we said lawmakers ought not get a pay raise. And the governor, yet, in his budget included that. Now, lawmaker pay raises isn't going to solve the state budget crisis, but it gives you an idea of just how unwilling the governor has been to entertain Republican ideas. We're willing to do that again this year. The budget process starts with his proposal, which we saw the other day, his proposal is unbalanced to the tune of $1.7 billion, and we have now from now through May 31 to really scrutinize his proposal and see whether we can come to an agreement on that.

How do you plan to go about that scrutinizing, how do you plan to go about the budget talks in the Senate?

Well, again, he's put forward his ideas, which includes some tax increases. I think we will have ample public hearings, budget hearings, where we discuss his tax increases. He proposes to spend more money, I think we'll have an ample opportunity to scrutinize some of that, some of his spending plans. There, you will see differences of opinion, even some Democrats won't agree with all the spending that Gov. Pritzker wishes to do. But that's why we go through this process, and this process is designed to land hopefully with a bipartisan balanced budget by the end of May. That's our goal.

One more time: What in particular would you like to see changed?

If you look at our budget over the last, just during the Gov. Pritzker administration, he's more than two years into it, and what you see is year after year is growth of spending goes up. Everyone in the public recognizes that if your spending continues to go up, then you're not recognizing the very limited means in which we need to balance our budget. So we again, will try to work with the governor to rein in his spending. But last year, again, case in point where the governor ran through his ideas without taking any Republican input, so we'll see if he wants to do that again this year.

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Christine Hatfield, a graduate student in University of Illinois Springfield's Public Affairs Reporting program, is WGLT and WCBU's PAR intern for the first half of 2021.