Governor Pritzker Gives State of the State
Governor J.B. Pritzker of Illinois gave his state of the state address, discussing the different proposals contained in his budget for the next fiscal year. He focused on several key areas, including education, healthcare, crime, and the economy.
Pritzker has a few straightforward proposals when it comes to education. First, he proposed $350 million in funding for the K-12 funding formula to help push additional resources to underfunded schools throughout the state. He also proposed a 54 million-dollar increase in funding for early childhood education. This would be done alongside a 200 million-dollar investment in upskilling the early education workforce. Additionally, Pritzker wants to complete the three educational goals he said at the beginning of his term: increasing MAP scholarships by $200 million, getting more Pell grants and low-cost federal loans for Illinois students, and increasing support for higher learning institutions.
The governor proposed the implementation of the Path program, which would invest $25 million towards community colleges to expand the opportunities for the training and recruitment of more front-line healthcare workers. He also hopes to invest more money into nursing scholarships and loan forgiveness programs. Beyond this, Pritzker wants to eliminate licensure fees for 470,000 nurses, physicians, pharmacists, and other healthcare workers. He wants to add a new position, Chief Behavioral Health Officer, who will work to put together and oversee behavioral health services across all state agencies. The person appointed to this role will work directly with the Governor’s office. Finally, in the area of childcare, the Governor said that he wants to invest $250 million to hire more child welfare workers.
Pritzker said that he hopes to continue increasing the number of Illinois state police forensic scientists and evidence technicians. He also included funding in his budget proposal that would allow for the largest hiring of cadets in any single year. He wants to give attention to the Gang Crime Witness Protection Program, which was created almost a decade ago but never received funding. Pritzker hopes to invest $23 million into that program to protect those that come forward against or fall victim to gang crime. Finally, he wants to increase the budget for violence interruption, diversion, and youth employment programs to $832 million.
The final major area that Governor Pritzker focused on was the state’s economy. He started by talking about his hopes to eliminate licensing fees for 23,000 bars and restaurants across the state. He also announced the Illinois Family Relief Plan. This plan will do things such as freeze the gas tax for this year and the grocery tax, along with doubling property tax deductions for Illinois homeowners. He says that doubling those deductions will bring relief to about 2 million Illinois taxpayers. The governor also mentioned the hundreds of millions of dollars that will be available in the first half of this year to help struggling homeowners stay in their homes, rather than blinked out.
Pritzker also proposed $500 million to add to the budget for pension payments. Alongside this, he hopes to reduce the pension debt, which he said will lower interest payments for Illinois residents by $1.8 billion in the coming years. He also proposed $600 million to be set aside for the state’s rainy day fund, along with an additional $279 million next year.
Pritzker also talked about the private buyer who is buying what was called the most inefficient office building in Chicago, taking on several hundreds of dollars of liabilities and promising $70 million in cash to the state’s government. He said this transaction will give the people of Chicago a newly renovated office building that will produce great revenue and will save the people of Illinois about $750 million in taxes. It is also set to reduce government office space by 640,000 square feet by 2024 and lower the lease price of office space in Chicago from $41 to $20 per square foot. To cap it off, Governor Pritzker announced that the state of Illinois will end the year with a surplus of $1.7 billion, which would be the highest in 25 years for the state.
The position for Governor is up for election this year in Illinois, and Pritzker has announced his intention to run for a second term. Residents of the state will be able to attend the primaries on June 28.