Gov. J.B. Pritzker presented his first-ever budget last week. He described it as “austere” due to Illinois’ troubled fiscal situation.
Pritzker’s spending plan relies on new taxes and fees, revenue from sports betting and recreational marijuana, and pitches a package of fixes to shore up the underfunded state pension system. As expected, Pritzker also called on lawmakers to begin the process of converting the state’s flat income tax to a graduated tax, which will require a constitutional amendment.
After Pritzker delivered his speech, Illinois Senate President John Cullerton said he expects bills to put that amendment on the 2020 ballot and to set tax rates will pass during the spring legislative session. Cullerton “recognizes how important this is to finally fixing the lingering structural deficit and providing financial stability going forward,” a spokesman for Cullerton told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Pritzker also made an effort to strike a bipartisan tone in his budget speech, describing lawmakers on both sides of the aisle as people with “true generosity of spirit.”
“We will disagree at times on important things, but the work we all came here to do will get done,” Pritzker said.
In a statement after Pritzker delivered his address, Illinois Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady described the budget as “a starting point for further negotiations.”
“We heard a lot in his speech about more spending, more tax increases and concepts tried in the past,” Brady said. “I have grave concerns about the pension plan and I remain opposed to a graduated income tax.”
Cullerton and Brady join “Chicago Tonight” for a conversation.