Gov. Pritzker delivers State of the State address to discuss budget, asylum seeker funding

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Thursday, February 22, 2024
Gov. Pritzker addresses budget, migrants in State of the State
Gov. JB Pritzker addressed the budget and migrants in his State of the State address.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WLS) -- Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker delivered his sixth State of the State address on Wednesday.

Pritzker began his speech just after noon in Springfield, before the Illinois General Assembly.

The governor discussed the nearly $53 billion budget for the 2024 fiscal year, calling for new spending on child care, homelessness and migrants, while proposing new plans to help with medical care and grocery costs.

He's also proposing $800 million in new taxes.

RELATED: Pritzker, Preckwinkle pledge combined $250M for Chicago migrants; mayor dodges questions

Pritzker called the budget "focused and disciplined," drawing standing ovations on a number of proposals, but also raising eyebrows during his 52-minute speech, when he got rather political.

He also said Illinois is on the right track.

"Do not let the doom grifters steal your optimism about what's ahead for Illinois. Our future is bright, and opportunity lies ahead," Pritzker said.

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The governor got a standing ovation with a new proposal to permanently do away with the 1% state tax on groceries, something he temporarily suspended during the COVID pandemic.

"If it reduces inflation for families from 4% to 3%, even if it only puts a few hundred bucks back in families' pockets, it's the right thing to do," Pritzker said.

And state Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, agrees.

"I do love the no more tax on groceries. That's going to help on a lot of families by eliminating the sales tax on groceries. That's a big deal," Ford said.

Earlier this month, Pritzker and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle promised more money to help asylum seekers sent to Chicago from Texas.

Both pledged a combined $250 million in funding for shelter, wraparound services and healthcare.

SEE ALSO: Mayor Johnson backs out of commitment to $250M joint city, county, state migrant care package

Pritzker is asking lawmakers to appropriate $182 million to help with the migrant crisis.

One senior lawmaker suggested that may have to be bundled with a broader spending package that would also help other disadvantaged communities.

The governor's proposal is a starting point for negotiations.

"If we want to be a state that is building a community building up another community, I believe that this step takes us into that right direction," said Eduardo Fuentes, with the New Life Center.

This is the first budget year where there will not be pandemic money to help lawmakers pay for programs.

There will be a projected budget deficit of $891 million.

One of the big new programs the governor is proposing is a billion-dollar multi-year plan to help retire the outstanding medical debt of low-income Illinoisans.

A $10 million portion of the budget would help clear the debt of 364,000 residents. It's modeled after a similar program started by Cook County.

The governor also proposed spending $150 million more on early childcare programs, in particular the Smart Start initiative, which he has been touting in recent weeks. It's a program to expand access to early childhood education.

While continuing to invest in programs to combat homelessness, the governor is calling for an additional $50 million to specifically address the problem among Black residents.

Pritzker drew jeers from Republicans when he called Joe Biden a good president and cheers from Democrats with pointed criticism of Donald Trump and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott over the crisis at the border. The politics surprised lawmakers.

"Got a little political there, kind of was wondering if he was running for president or when he's going to be running for president. So I thought that that was kind of interesting and off-putting actually,"