Illinois GOP lawmaker tells Pritzker to follow 2019 order to cut more than 6% from budget

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There’s still no clear direction on how Illinois lawmakers and the Democratic governor will balance the state budget that’s about $4 billion out of whack. A Republican leader says there should be across the board cuts.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he’s eying cuts before tax increases.

“So that’s what I’ve been focused on and I will say I have not yet heard back from the leaders of what their best proposals are on what cuts there needs to be made,” Pritzker said. “So I’m awaiting their response.”

House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, reportedly talked with the Legislative Black Caucus about increasing revenue instead of cuts.

A spokesman for Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, issued a statement urging Republicans to produce recommendations for cuts.

“Republicans made it clear deep budget cuts were a better alternative to a Fair Tax,” Harmon spokesman John Patterson said. “The voters have spoken. We now look forward to our colleagues across the aisle offering up the Republican cuts for public review.”

Assistant Senate Majority Leader Bill Cunningham, D-Chicago, wasn’t specific about potential cuts, but said they’re also looking to reverse some tax incentive programs.

“We’ll have to evaluate those things and determine whether or not some of those loopholes have to be closed in order to increase the revenue flow so we don’t have to cut as many vital programs,” Cunningham said Tuesday.

Messages seeking comment from Senate GOP leadership communication staff were not immediately returned.

House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said he told the governor what to do in a phone call shortly after the election.

“The question came up of how we're going to solve the budget,” Durkin said. “The governor asked me what was my plan, I said, ‘governor we need to go back, I’d like for you to go back to 2019 where you issued a statement that you were asking for six-and-a-half percent cuts across the board from your agencies.”

In September 2019, Pritzker issued a memo to state agencies he controls ordering them to find 6.5 percent in cuts for the upcoming budget. Durkin said he has yet to see the results of the order. In May 2020, legislators didn’t incorporate such cuts and instead passed the largest budget in state history.

For the state’s Fiscal Year 2021 spending plan of around $42 billion, 6.5 percent across-the-board cuts would shave off about $2.7 billion. Pritzker announced before Thanksgiving the state would be borrowing around $2 billion from a federal loan program, but that would be short-term borrowing.

The governor has said he can find efficiencies in some areas on his own, but may need legislative action to shore up other spending. Lawmakers aren’t expected back in session until just before the new general assembly is seated the second week of January.





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