Governor JB Pritzker says he plans to enact around $700 million in budget cuts under his control, but its unclear if public employees are going to work with him on some of the cuts he wants to make.
Pritzker laid out the potential cuts Tuesday afternoon to help close a $4 billion hole in the current state budget. Some, like “personnel cost adjustments” and “group insurance savings” are slotted to save the state around $140 million but would require buy-in from state employees.
If the first response from the major public employee union is any indication, state employees aren’t interested in playing ball on cuts.
“Undoubtedly our state faces a severe fiscal crisis and action is urgently needed. However, it is grossly unjust to suggest that frontline state employees who have already sacrificed so much in our current public health crisis should bear an outsized share of the burden of fixing the state’s fiscal crisis as well,” said Roberta Lynch, the Executive Director of AFSCME Council 31. “Moreover, it is counterproductive in the extreme to target these employees at a time when the need for state services and the demands on state government are greater than ever.”
Pritzker blamed Republicans for the cuts, as most Republicans opposed his “Fair Tax” graduated tax referendum in November, which was used to balance the budget with revenue Democrats expected from the new revenue.
“Republicans both inside and outside the General Assembly fought tooth and nail against the best solution for our working families, lying about what the fair tax would do for our state, pledging their allegiance to the wealthy, and throwing lower- and middle-class families under the bus,” said Pritzker. “It’s been two years since Republicans announced their wholesale opposition to the fair tax and it’s been 40 days since the election, and they have yet to produce any viable answer for balancing the budget.”
Pritzker’s Democratic party holds supermajorities in both the House and Senate.
But Republicans were quick to shoot back at Pritzker, who they say made the budget problems for himself by signing a budget that was billions out of balance.
“Governor Pritzker, President Harmon and [Speaker] Madigan were repeatedly warned about the dire shortfalls in the fantasy budget that relied upon the passage of the graduated tax and a ‘fingers crossed’ hope for a federal bailout,” said House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs). “Instead of living within our means, they attempted to trick voters into raising taxes, and were sorely rejected by Democrat, Republican and Independent voters across the state. We hope the Governor uses his authority to call the General Assembly into session so that we can look to move Illinois forward by fixing the problems the Democrats have created.”
Incoming Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods) also criticized Pritzker's comments.
“The Governor can blame others all he wants for the state’s financial mess, but the fact of the matter is this is a bed of his own making. Voters fundamentally rejected his graduated tax proposal because of their lack of trust in state government, which stems from years of Springfield increasing taxes and ignoring the reforms that Republicans have put on the table time and time again,” he said. “In fact, during the current budget cycle, instead of taking up spending reforms in anticipation of hard times to follow from COVID-19, Democrats and the Governor increased spending, relying on magic money from the federal government that never materialized. This is the kind of recklessness that voters know all too well and is the real reason they rejected Springfield digging deeper into people’s pockets.”