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Pritzkers migrant spending scrutinized by legislators

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(The Center Square) – The Pritzker administration is working to justify to Illinois legislators the proposed $52.7 billion budget and Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s ability to transfer funds unilaterally.

During a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing in Springfield Wednesday, state Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, said historically, governors have had a 2% transfer power, but then it increased to 4% and now it’s up to 8%. Rose said it makes it hard to see where taxpayer money is going. Rose specifically pointed out that last fiscal year, $1.2 million went to the new agency, The Governor’s Office of New Americans.

“It’s $1.2 million, which certainly isn’t a billion but we all know it adds up. It’s $1.2 million that we don’t know where it’s being spent,” said Rose. “People deserve to know where it’s going … and this 8% discretionary authority, it makes it very hard to track where all this is going.”

Alexis Sturm, director of the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, said the law allows the office to only transfer funds operationally and that the Illinois Department of Human Services hasn’t utilized the 8% transfer authority.

“On transfer authority, it’s very clearly laid out in statute that it’s for operational lines. So what you’ll see is moving between printing and contractual services,” said Sturm. “It’s very narrow. It doesn’t leave an agency and it doesn’t leave a fund.”

Rose pointed out that spending on healthcare for migrants is estimated at $725 million in fiscal year 2024 and $629 million is proposed for fiscal year 2025. Direct support for migrants over the last couple of fiscal years was $682 million, but in the 2025 fiscal year it is proposed for $182 million.

“Are there transfers that are occurring either in the current fiscal year or will occur in the next fiscal year to cover non-citizen spending?” asked Rose.

Sturm said when the governor’s office passed last year’s budget, they didn’t know what fiscal year 2024 would look like.

“There have been some lines that had some flexibility that we’ve been able to use to support the costs that the state was not prepared for,” said Sturm.

Sturm confirmed that approximately $700 million has been spent on migrants for fiscal year 2024, and said the spending allocation in 2025 is $182 million, but those numbers are just direct support.

Rose pointed out a different program that is $725 million dedicated for non-citizen health care. Sturm could not confirm total spending on migrants for fiscal year 2024 or projected for 2025.

In the same hearing, a state lawmaker raised concerns about last year’s budget and the dispersing of funds to disabled adults.

State Sen. Laura Murphy, D-Des Plaines, pointed out that Illinois ranks 46th in the nation in total dollars allocated for services for people with developmental disabilities.

“I appreciate that the governor did, in the supplemental budget, approve an additional $12.5 million for salaries for those who work with the disability community,” said Murphy. “But did you know those aren’t dispersed yet? I wonder if someone is going to have some oversight into ensuring that occurs.”

Andy Manar, deputy governor for Budget and Economy, said the increases to the Illinois Department of Human Services for people with disabilities are significant.

“As far as something not being implemented, we can have the deputy governor reach out and get you more details on that,” said Manar. “I don’t know the details.”

Rose also asked Manar about the $1.2 million for the new office called “The Governor’s Office of New Americans.”

“This [ $1.2 million] is in the process of being implemented both this current fiscal year and next, working with DHS,” siad Manar.

Manar said the office would provide Rose with a list of expenditures that go beyond the generic “intergovernmental agreements.”

Also in the hearing, the Illinois Arts Council is asking for a 132% increase. Rose said his constituents are having a hard time putting gas in the car and food on the table and asked officials to help him come up with an explanation as to why taxpayers should spend more on theaters and museums.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton’s office is seeking $3 million, an increase from $2.7 million for fiscal year 2024.