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Illinois governor signs $53.1 billion state budget

State lawmakers pulled an all-nighter last week before approving the budget for Governor J.B. Pritzker's signature.

CHICAGO (CN) — Democratic Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed his sixth state budget in office on Wednesday. At $53.1 billion, it's the largest in state history — and about $400 million greater than he initially pitched to state lawmakers in February.

The revised spending plan places a large emphasis on childcare and education. It dedicates $14 million to create a new Department of Early Childhood, which will manage day care and early childhood education programs currently split between the state's Department of Human Services, Board of Education and Department of Children and Family Services. Another $50 million will go toward a new state child tax credit benefitting Illinois families with children under 12.

The budget boosts K-12 education funding by $350 million — the minimum required under a 2017 public school funding reform law — and allocates an additional $30.6 million for the state's public universities and community colleges. The state will also spend $45 million to address Illinois' teacher shortage, and increase spending on grants for school transportation and special education by about $33 million.

Other highlights in the 2025 budget bills include $500 million earmarked for one of Pritzker's pet projects — an Illinois "quantum computing campus" — $290 million to fund homelessness alleviation efforts, and $182 million to continue supporting the thousands of newly arrived immigrants and asylum seekers in Chicago. The state is also abolishing its 1% grocery tax in 2026, though individual municipalities will still be able to implement grocery taxes of their own.

"We started with our children and families, focusing on the areas most essential to them to thrive, like childcare, education, healthcare and housing," Pritzker said at a press conference Wednesday. "This budget was designed to make them more affordable and more accessible."

In order to fund these and other efforts, the state had to increase revenue by $1.1 billion. Part of that money will be drawn from a tax hike on sports betting operators in Illinois. Pritzker's original proposal boosted the tax on the operators' adjusted gross receipts from 15% to 35%, but state lawmakers settled on a tiered scale from 20% to 40%. Pritzker's office expects to see an additional $200 million from the increase, and another $526 million by capping tax write-offs for business losses at $500,000. The governor's office hopes a similar $1,000 monthly cap on tax discounts for retailers will raise an additional $101 million.

The Democrat-controlled Illinois House pulled an all-nighter last week to pass the budget Pritzker signed Wednesday. Facing Republican opposition and defections from within the party, it took several hours before lawmakers finally passed the spending plan in a 65-45 vote shortly after 2 a.m. on May 29.

Pritzker claimed several times Wednesday that the budget was balanced, but many Republicans objected to its high price tag. A statement put out by five GOP state representatives Wednesday evening argued the 2025 budget relied on "taxes and gimmicks."

"A reminder that this plan was passed in the middle of the night and with no Republican support. The governor claims this budget as 'balanced', but the truth is that it is balanced on the backs of hardworking Illinoisans through taxes and gimmicks," the representatives' statement said.

Illinois Senate Republican Leader John Curran particularly objected to the funding for migrant aid.

“A budget is a list of priorities, and this budget passed by the Democratic Majority prioritizes newly arrived non-citizens over the taxpayers we were elected to represent," Curran said in a statement last week.

Curran went on to blame Pritzker for the migrant crisis. He has made the accusation before, arguing Pritzker has encouraged migrants to come to Chicago by committing state funds to support them. However, many of the new immigrants and asylum seekers in Chicago were sent to the city from the southern border on the order of Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott. The Texas Governor has explicitly sent immigrants to Democrat-controlled cities as a political attack on the Biden administration.

Pritzker and other Democratic state officials pushed back against Republican criticisms, arguing the budget prioritized vulnerable groups in the state.

"This is a compassionate, human-centered plan that invests in our youth, reinforces public safety efforts and prioritizes access to critically-needed healthcare," Speaker Pro Tempore Jehan Gordon-Booth said Wednesday in a prepared statement. 

Pritzker also boasted about how Illinois has received nine separate credit upgrades since he took office.

"Overall, our fiscal foundation is getting stronger every year," he said Wednesday.

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Categories / Economy, Government, Regional

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