(patriotic music) – Illinois lawmakers have adjourned for the summer after the Democratic majorities in both Houses passed a $50.6 billion state budget for the new fiscal year, starting on July 1st.
I’m Jak Tichenor.
This is “Illinois Lawmakers” along with Amanda Vinicky of Channel 11 Chicago tonight.
Glad to have you back on the program, Amanda.
– Glad to be back.
Happy end of session, Jack.
– The Democrats went solo in passing this budget in both the House and Senate, but there were some fireworks on the floor when the budget was actually voted on in the wee hours Friday morning in the Senate and Saturday morning in the House of Representatives.
What went on?
– What happened was you really got frustration, particularly in the House from Republicans who say that they were excluded from the process.
Now, that’s something that Democrats deny, and in fact, on the Senate there was some bipartisan cooperation, or at least talks, but not enough to win any GOP votes.
And I’m told that really the crux of that is just an unwillingness by Democrats to give on some of the GOP’s key demands that there may have been, at least on the Senate side, some support had, for instance, a private school scholarship program that gives tax credits to donors called Invest in Kids.
Had that been included as an extension, instead that program as of now is set to expire, go away.
Also, some more attempts to give businesses a boost.
Those are things that were really important for Republicans.
They needed to go back and say something didn’t get it in the budget.
Again, it was more heated over in the House where also frustrations were the feeling of neglect.
Something that House Speaker Chris Welch says, “Uh-uh, that’s not the case.
Anybody who’s opening the door.”
He had said he wanted guarantees from GOP, that they would have some votes on the board for it.
GOP saying, “We can’t do that without knowing what’s in the budget.”
They believe that it spends too much.
– Well, and one of the areas where it spends too much in their opinion, and they have talked about this all spring, is the healthcare program for undocumented residents of the state of Illinois.
That will be about $550 million with an M this year.
They think it’s gonna be a lot more than that.
The governor and the Democrats say, ” Hey, we’ve got the guardrails on this.
We can keep it within that margin.”
– And where the controversy really stems from is a report that the Pritzker administration had put out there that shows that spending would reach $1 billion.
And so now you’re looking at approximately half that.
And as you noted, that is because the General Assembly says it gave what they’re terming the tools to the Pritzker administration to trim costs and expenses.
The governor has said there are seven or eight examples of that.
He’s really, I think, only given a couple things, for example, like copays for folks who are part of this program, for some of the undocumented residents who received this healthcare benefit.
Democrats also say they believe they can be some federal match.
But let’s be clear, you’re not going to get a ton of federal money for this.
This is something that Illinois is sort of going at alone.
It isn’t Medicaid because these are undocumented residents who are not eligible for Medicaid.
So it is a really huge chunk that the Pritzker administration is going to have to trim from the program.
Can you call it a trim if it’s half?
I don’t know, I think that’s a chop.
But the Pritzker administration, general Assembly, Democrats say they are confident.
Republicans are quite skeptical and believe that this is going to lead to some sort of supplemental or overspend.
– This is very much almost identical to what the governor proposed.
He got all the big ticket items like his Smart Start program, more money for K through 12, more money for higher education, more money for healthcare.
He walks away with win, in most respects.
– He does, and I think that is very evident in the tour that as you and I speak, he’s going on.
He’s spending the week post budget passage going around Illinois touting the accomplishments of a budget that by the way, he has yet to sign.
And there’s plenty of time for that.
And it is an indication that of course, as he’d said, he is going to, he did take, in this case, I will use the word trimmed I think accurately.
There are some areas where he’d wanted to spend, that’s of course part of negotiations.
He gets to walk away with really a big win, particularly on that early childhood program that is obvious he wanted to make sort of the mantle of this coming year where, again, he could run into trouble potentially would be what happens with this program for undocumented immigrants, both practically and politically, particularly as you have Pritzker perhaps eyeing a job on the national front.
– Amanda Vinicky, thank you so much for your time.
We certainly appreciate your expertise and experience.
– My pleasure, thank you.
– Joining me now on “Illinois lawmakers”, Democratic Senate President Don Harmon of Oak Park.
Good to have you in the program again, sir.
– Great to be back with you, Jak.
Thanks for the invite.
– Let’s talk about the new budget that’s just passed, $50.6 billion.
It’s very similar to the budget outlined by Governor Pritzker back in February.
There are major investments in K through 12, early childhood education, higher education.
What are the highlights as far as you’re concerned that you want people to know about?
– Well the biggest highlight is we’ve passed another responsible balanced budget.
One that builds on the success of the last several years, putting our fiscal House in order.
We’ve lived within our means.
We’ve anticipated the economic trends, and I hope that the rating agencies will take note and reward us with our ninth, 10th, and 11th credit rating upgrades.
– There’s major investments in early childhood, $250 million for the Governor’s signature program, Smart Start Illinois.
– There is, and that’s been a shared priority for all of us.
I think it’s the smartest money we can spend on children in that birth to five window.
We can avoid all sorts of problems down the road.
And the governor had little trouble building a consensus within our caucus or the House to increase resources devoted to early childhood education.
– The evidence-based funding program, that bipartisan bill from a few years ago that started in the Senate, another $350 million for K through 12 education.
– Again, another priority, one that we’ve committed to and have lived up to every year, but the first year of the pandemic when we didn’t know if the wheels were all coming off or not, so we’re back on track and the results speak for themselves.
I think only two school districts now fall below the 60% adequacy targets, which is a marked improvement from where we were when we started.
So I trust we’ll stay on that trajectory and keep investing new money each year until we get to an adequately-funded kindergarten through high school education system.
– There’s of course another major investment in higher education, $100 million for the monetary award program for lower income students, as well as more operational funding for Illinois colleges and universities.
– We’ve reversed a disappointing trend that began about 20 years ago with a different governor, almost a systemic disinvestment in higher education when it really should be one of our most important competitive advantages.
We’ve got a great network of colleges and universities and a flagship University of Illinois, so we’ve reversed that trend.
You mentioned the monetary award program though, that for me is the most important component.
That might be the single most important tool to getting first generation college students into and staying in college.
We also bulked up the Aim High program.
It’s a companion program aimed more towards middle class families to try to make sure that we help those families get their kids into and staying in college as well.
– In talking to the House and Senate Republicans the last few weeks, there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of daylight between what they found in the governor’s budget and what eventually passed, but their big objection came kind of at the last minute.
They’ve been talking about, of course, and that’s the extra money that will be going for undocumented immigrant healthcare.
I believe that figure’s about $550 million.
– It remains to be seen, and much of that will come from the implementation of the program.
It all comes out of the almost $10 billion Medicaid budget.
There were some early figures that put that component well over a billion dollars, but we gave the governor additional tools to manage the program, which I think is important.
But there was broad consensus that making sure that all residents of Illinois, regardless of their citizenship status, have access to basic healthcare.
And the honest truth of the matter is, anyone who lives in Illinois who experiences a health episode is gonna end up in one of our emergency rooms and we’re all gonna pay for it anyway.
So it makes some sense to be proactive and outline a basic Medicaid like program so that everyone has access to routine preventative healthcare.
– One of the things your Senate Republican colleague, Senator John Curran gave you props for allowing them to, or bringing them into the budget negotiations all the way up until the last minute.
Were you surprised though that there eventually were no Republican votes on this bill?
– No, it was a bit disappointing, but I would give the same compliment back to Leader Curran.
He and his team really were honest and earnest in negotiating with us on the budget.
The result is a better budget, one that reflects both Democratic and Republican priorities.
There’s a whole host of things in the budget that satisfy Republican constituencies.
In the end, we just couldn’t bridge a couple of non-budget items that the Republicans held out as prerequisites to voting on the budget, and that’s understandable, but we’ll try again next year.
I’m encouraged by the process.
– Senator Harmon, thanks so much taking the time out as you go back into your district work period, we certainly appreciate it.
– Thanks, Jak.
It’s always a pleasure to be with you.
– Up next on “Illinois lawmakers”, we’re talking with the Senate Republican leader John Curran of Downers Grove.
Good to have you back on the program, sir.
– Jak, very nice to be back with you.
– This was kind of an unusual session in recent years where Republicans, particularly in the Senate, had an opportunity to work with Democratic budget making counterparts in crafting the $50.6 billion budget that eventually passed along party line votes.
What was the deal breaker for you in the end that there were no Republican votes on that bill?
– The Senate president, when I was first elected leader, when we met, talked about wanting to create an atmosphere of bipartisanship and bipartisan representation.
So I do wanna tip my cap to the Senate president.
He was sincere in that.
And I think we’ve seen that play out in the Senate through the entire legislative process.
And certainly having Senate Republican budgeteers at the table, making sure our priorities were being heard and considered in the crafting of the budget is an important step forward.
So I do wanna acknowledge that, as to your question, I would note that the budget passed with 34 votes.
The Democrats had 40 members.
There were Democrats that sided with us, that this was not a budget that represented all of Illinois, and I think ultimately that was where we came down on it, this is a budget that has…
This is the biggest spending plan in the history of the state.
This is a large expansion of state government at a time when it’s hard to see Illinois’s near term growth is going to be there to support this budget.
While the country as a whole is growing, we continue to lag, our neighbors, certainly everyone, very easy to understand.
Every 10 years we lose one to two congressional seats in this state, why is that?
Because others have more robust growth.
They have more pro-growth policies put in place than we do here in Illinois.
So we really saw a lack of investment in business, and we had a big problem with the large sums being spent in this budget, somewhere between 550 million to 1.1 billion on healthcare at a premium level, I mean, better healthcare than we provide those less fortunate here that are actually citizens in this state.
The healthcare program that has been propped up by the Democrats for illegal citizens in this state.
There is no reason to have such a reckless program that has shown no sight of slowing down in growth.
And that is going to be a continuing issue in not only this budget, but future budgets in terms of being able to, crowding out other priorities.
– The Democrats say that they’ve given the governor the tools that he needs to rein in spending on that non-resident healthcare program that will keep it from going as high as the $1.1 billion that was discussed at several points during this session.
Can you take that to the bank in your opinion?
– No, absolutely not, Jak.
The most responsible thing to do would’ve been to write those controls into the BIB, the budget implementation bill, to actually have the legislature step up, be responsible and rein in the explosive growth in this program.
The governor has shown after the last couple years, his administration that they have been reluctant and have not exercised any controls on this program.
To date, there are no copays, there are no limitations on prescription drugs.
Nothing like limiting to just generics.
It is fee for service.
We’re not getting reimbursements from the feds, from the federal government like we do with regular Medicaid for citizens and the governor has failed to act in his time.
Now we’re supposed to trust and believe that the governor is gonna step up and rein this in responsibly?
There may be something, but I still haven’t heard from the governor exactly what he’s gonna do.
And yet the budget, we’re reducing the so-called cost to make the budget appear balanced, it’s problematic.
– Got about 15 seconds left.
There was also hope on your part that hospitals would see higher Medicaid reimbursement rates, but it was only about 10% opposed as opposed to the 20% that the hospitals wanted.
– Jak, it’s a good step forward.
I’ve spoken to the hospital association, they’re gonna continue to make their case.
We did support the Medicaid omnibus in the Senate, unanimously, Republicans all voted for it, it had that 10% increase, hospitals were seeking 20.
But that was something that we were in support of.
– Senate Republican Leader John Curran of Downers Grove.
Thanks so much for your time on “Illinois Lawmakers”.
We certainly appreciate it.
– Thank you, Jak.
– Joining me now on “Illinois lawmakers”, the Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emmanuel Chris Welch.
Good to have you back on the program, sir.
– Hey, thanks for having me back, Jak.
– You called the new spending plan fiscally responsible and compassionate.
What do you want our viewers and listeners to know about what you think is most important about this new spending plan for the fiscal year that starts on July 1st?
– Well, it’s just that, Jak, it’s fiscally responsible and it’s compassionate.
We can actually walk and chew gum at the same time.
This is our fifth balanced budget in a row.
We already have had eight credit upgrades in the last couple of years, and I fully expect that this fifth balanced budget in a row is gonna continue to lead to additional credit upgrades on behalf of our state.
We are well on our way to bringing Illinois back, and it’s compassionate too.
We were able to do a balanced budget, but also make sure this balance reflects our morals.
It helps people, it helps people all over this state, whether you’re on a blue District, red district, this budget helps people all over the great state of Illinois.
– The governor, if you look at the budget that he proposed back on February, the middle of February, this budget reflects most, if not all of the priorities, like his early childhood program, more money for K through 12, more money for higher education, more money for healthcare, including Medicaid reimbursements for hospitals.
And most of what the governor outlined in February, you heard it in our comments immediately after, lined up with the priorities of both the House and the Senate.
I mean, it really is a budget that invests in the entire state of Illinois.
Already you’re seeing great dividends in what we’re doing in the higher education space.
The investments in the higher education, the 7% increases in our universities across the board is a vast difference from the governor’s predecessor when there was a huge disinvestment in higher education.
And this governor’s taken it further with large investments in early childhood education, which we know is probably the most important area to start.
Really proud of the investments that we’re putting into education throughout this budget.
And we’re gonna be able to build upon that.
– There was more money for poverty programs, more money to hire more staff for the Department of Children and Family Services.
– That’s right, if you look at this budget, this budget really is compassionate in so many areas.
In fact, we saw Medicaid rates increase for the first time in two decades.
We saw raises given to those who work with people with disabilities, they call them DSP workers.
They got $2.50 per hour raises for the first time in years.
They’re taking care of our most vulnerable, and we want to make sure that their wages reflect what we believe the value of their work.
I mean, they deserve those raises, wish we could do more, but we’re gonna continue to build upon that as well.
We provided money for violence prevention and summer youth employment, things that we were disinvesting in under our prior administration.
We’re now, because of the sound fiscal footing we got our state on, we’re able to do again, and we’re really moving Illinois forward in a very positive direction.
– There’s over half a billion dollars in new funding for a program that grants undocumented non-residents of the state, excuse me, residents of the state with a healthcare program.
That was an issue that Republicans were unilaterally against.
– Well, I mean, I think that’s another area where our party differs dramatically from the other party.
We are a compassionate party.
That’s why the budget is compassionate too.
This is a program that understand there’s folks here that are here, they’re working, they’re paying taxes.
If they went and received medical attention in an emergency room, it would cost us a lot more.
This is a program that’s Medicaid eligible.
Many of the things they’re being treated for, there’s federal matching funds for.
And so this was the right thing to do.
It was the compassionate thing to do and I’m proud of the fact that Illinois recognizes that.
– About a half a minute left.
I want to ask you about the dust up on the floor on the final budget.
Leader McCombie says they were leery, Republicans were leery putting votes on the budget without knowing if they had commitments early on for things like the Invest In Kids program, how do you respond?
– Well I can tell you that’s the first I’m hearing that.
I mean, I asked the leader, we had weekly meetings since the beginning of session, sometimes twice, thrice a week.
And about two weeks ago, I asked her if Republicans were gonna put votes on the board, and I asked at a minimum, can you put your leadership team on the board to vote for the budget?
She said “Let me get back to you”.
She never got back to me.
The first I saw that they were gonna vote against the budget was when they voted against the budget.
And this whole notion that it was tied to invest in kids, that’s something that I’m hearing about for the first time now.
And so we were committed to working with them.
We were doing bipartisan working groups throughout the session.
I was meeting with her regularly, but they chose to push away from the table, not the Democrats.
– Mr. Speaker, thank you very much for your time and good luck in your district work period over the summer.
We certainly appreciate your time.
– Jak, thank you.
Always excited to be back home and work at the district and always excited to see you.
– Up next on “Illinois Lawmakers”, our guest is House Republican leader Toni McCombie of Savanna.
Good to have you back on the program, Leader.
– Thanks for having me.
I appreciate it.
– Lots of things have happened in the last few days.
The Democrats in the Illinois General Assembly passed a $50.6 billion budget for the state of Illinois.
There were no Republican votes on that budget.
There had been some hope earlier in the session that there might be enough in this package that some Republicans would support the budget as it was passed.
So give us your view of how things went in this whole process.
– Well from what I’m hearing, moreso now after session, but a little bit in that last week, I would say the Senate was having discussions, the House Republicans were not, which is really unfortunate.
When I was elected leader, I was a representative with Speaker Welch and was really, maybe naively, but I wanted to believe because of our past friendship and relationship that we would be able to lead our two caucuses together to work more proactively together.
And we did have a good session, we met weekly, with the exception of spring break, and I think one other week and the final week, probably the most important week, we did not meet either.
So I was disappointed I guess you could say that we were not able to have some discussions.
Our caucus talked for several weeks, maybe six weeks, about our shared priorities that we had between Republicans and Democrats, and really wanted to make sure that those things were going to be part of the budget.
And then after we knew that would be willing to make ourselves vulnerable to put our things in there because this is about building trust, and if we are passionately supporting something, but not willing, even if it’s just one thing, and I’ll use a shared priority, was invest in kids, which as you know is not in the budget.
If we were passionately supportive of that, it was told that we were not going to be putting that in the budget unless we’re putting in Republican votes.
So we were very leery about showing our hand until we knew what was in there.
We actually, our lead budgeteer, deputy leader Noreen Hammond of Macomb, she and I had a couple conversations with the governor and his team, and that was more proactive on a future relationship of budget building than with the House.
So I’m going forward that, okay, we didn’t make this happen this cycle, it wasn’t by our choice, but let’s start over, let’s clean the slate and let’s come to the table again and start negotiating now for FY 25.
– Well, in respect to that, I talked with the Senate President Don Harmon about Invest In Kids yesterday for this program, and he said that it was his view that the issue could be revisited again in the veto session.
– Yeah, that’s what I’m hearing as well.
And there is a little time for that because of the sunset.
I think the concern of some of our members in the House on both sides of the aisle was whether or not there would be any interruption of the scholarship for students.
And there was some negotiations with the folks in Invest In Kids.
So we tried to not get in the way of that.
– There are, in talking with some of the senior Republicans in both the House and the Senate, there were some things that they did like about the budget.
The money for higher education was one of the things that is going over well in districts that have state universities which are almost overwhelmingly Republican.
– Yeah, there’s always good things in the budget.
It’s the bad things that you have to worry about.
So serving our most vulnerable, our veterans, our students, definitely there is a lot of good in the budget.
It’s the bad that we’re have to be aware of.
– And we have about 15 seconds left and one of the issues that Republicans were concerned about was the immigrant health insurance program.
$1.1 billion is not sustainable or feasible.
And with that final expansion that did not happen this time, it doesn’t mean it’s not gonna happen in veto, that could be up to another $400 million and that’s a better coverage than Illinois residents.
So we have to really address that very quickly.
– House Republican leader Toni McCombie of Savanna, thank you so much for your time.
– Thank you so much.
I appreciate it.