For the first time since 2015 Illinois may actually have a budget in place before the start of the new fiscal year.
Illinois House lawmakers voted Thursday to approve a $38.5 billion state budget plan by a vote of 97-18. That followed a vote in the Senate on Wednesday that passed the budget bill by a vote of 54-2. The measure now goes to Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, who said in a statement he plans to sign it.
Among the highlights of the budget: $500 million for a new South Loop innovation center to be called the Discovery Partners Institute that is being led by the University of Illinois; an extra $407 million for early childhood and K-12 education; and an additional $56 million for universities and colleges. That last figure includes a $25 million scholarship fund to provide tuition assistance to students to encourage them to attend a college in Illinois. Many students fled the state after a prolonged budget impasse left many colleges financially bereft.
Some $53 million has also been set aside to cover the initial construction costs for a new veterans’ home in Quincy after a series of deaths from Legionnaire’s disease at the existing facility.
The budget also finds $172 million for costs related to the Obama Presidential Center.
Overall, the new plan spends roughly $600 million more than the current budget.
While it is ostensibly balanced, as required by state law, it’s also dependent on some rather optimistic revenue projections as well as forecast savings from a voluntary pension buyout plan that are by no means certain.
For example, the state is hoping to bring in some $300 million by selling the James R. Thompson Center in the Loop. But no buyer for the center has yet been found.
And the pension buyout plan, which the state hopes will save around $440 million a year, would give former public workers the option of completely cashing out their pensions – but at only 60 percent of the value. It remains to be seen just how attractive that offer will prove to be.
Joining us to discuss the budget deal: Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation; Ralph Martire, executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability; and Adam Schuster, director of budget and tax research at the Illinois Policy Institute.