A day after Gov. JB Pritzker and Democratic lawmakers announced a budget deal, a revised version of the state’s spending plan made further progress and was approved by the Illinois Senate Thursday night.
But the completion of a final map of the districts for Chicago’s newly elected school board could be further delayed in the future, as the House voted to give itself months more time to draw it up.
The state budget breakthrough could still get the Illinois House of Representatives to pass the $50.6 billion spending plan by Friday, nearly a week after the original deadline Democrats set for themselves.
At around 11:15 p.m., the Senate approved the budget by a vote of 34-22, paving the way for a House vote on Friday.
About an hour earlier, the Senate passed one of the underlying budget bills, 36-20.
After it passed, Pritzker said he hoped the House would take up a budget “that will make child care and education more accessible, health care more affordable, and our state’s business and economic position even stronger.”
“This budget makes transformative investments in Illinois children and families while building on our record of fiscal responsibility,” Pritzker said in a statement.
Senate Republicans, who were part of the budget negotiations, did not support the budget, in part because it included only a $2.50 pay increase for providers of people with developmental disabilities. Two Democrats also voted no.
The Illinois Association of Rehabilitation Facilities had sought a $4-an-hour wage increase for the workers. Republicans were also upset that funds for a scholarship program for private schools were not included. State Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mohammed, partly blamed prioritizing health care for undocumented people.
Illinois Senate Republican Leader John Curran, R-Downers Grove, said the budget “not only includes misplaced spending priorities, but misinvestments on behalf of the people we represent.” He chided Democrats for rejecting the private school scholarship program.
“Turning our backs on these families from my perspective is wrong,” Curran said.
But Illinois Senate President Don Harmon D-Oak Park called it a “responsible balanced budget.”
“This is a budget that invests in schools in red districts and in blue districts. We are investing in hospitals in the red districts and in the blue districts and in healthcare workers across the state. We are investing in municipalities in their districts and ours,” Harmon said. “I am disappointed that we have not yet reached a bipartisan budget, but I renew my commitment to work with you next year. And we will try again.
Lawmakers spent much of Thursday in caucuses as House Democrats grappled with key issues, including discussions about funding health care for undocumented people, the program to help finance scholarships for private schools, school funding based in evidence and money for district projects.
By Thursday afternoon, an amendment to the initial budget plan was filed, signaling that the House’s dismay had eased. In some cases, members attested to their support for the bill after projects were included in their districts.
Included is about $550 million in the current budget measure for health care for the undocumented, which is part of a larger Medicaid allocation through the Illinois Department of Human Services.
Another measure, part of the budget implementation bill, gives the department the ability to enact emergency rules to change the process around funding such health care, something the department currently does not have the ability to do. The state would then implement those new rules, should the department decide to change them.
Pritzker said Wednesday that Democratic leaders agreed to give the governor’s office the “tools” to manage the program so it doesn’t reach an unsustainable proportion.
Budget issues weren’t the only pending tasks at the state Capitol.
The Illinois House of Representatives voted 106-0 to agree with the Senate on a sweeping ethics measure targeting red-light camera companies, sending the measure to Pritzker’s desk. It comes after several elected officials were indicted in connection with the federal investigation into deals by the politically connected red-light camera company SafeSpeed.
The legislation prohibits contractors who provide equipment and services to red-light camera companies from making campaign contributions.
It would also allow the Illinois Department of Transportation to remove specific red-light cameras that have been linked to a bribery or corruption scandal. It also creates a two-year revolving door provision, which would prohibit members of the General Assembly and city and county officials from accepting employment from a contractor providing automated application equipment.
On another issue, the House decided to give itself an extra nine months to draw up a map for Chicago’s newly elected school board.
After two weeks of contentious hearings in which advocates complained their views were not being heard, lawmakers filed an amendment that would extend the deadline to submit district maps, which were originally due July 1. The amendment would give lawmakers until April 1, 2024, to determine districts for the elected school board.
The House voted 69-36 to approve the amendment Thursday night and the Senate was expected to take up the measure before adjourning.
After two hearings, the advocates said they wanted the map to represent the population of the public school system, not the general population of the city.
Eli Brottman, a consultant who has testified that there were numerous problems with the maps, including not having enough majority-Latino districts, tweeted Thursday night that he was “grateful to everyone who fought for equality.”
“We are winning the battle, but we must continue to ensure that the coming months include extensive public feedback on the process and the proposed maps,” Brottman said. “The responsibility does not stop here.”
The elected school board will begin serving in 2025, with 10 members to be selected in the November 2024 election, and another 10 members and a school board president appointed by Mayor Brandon Johnson.