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Republican negotiator responds to Pritzkers balanced budget claim

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(The Center Square) – Gov. J.B. Pritzker said there’s enough Illinois taxpayer revenue for his proposed $52.7 billion budget. Republican budget negotiators question that with a month before the deadline.

Pritzker said tax revenues are on track and that the big question is how the General Assembly prioritizes spending. He said he proposed a balanced budget.

“It’s a tight year but it’s not like we’re running a massive deficit and we need to panic on how we’re going to balance the budget. I proposed a balanced budget and it’s totally reasonable and it only has two tax adjustments and one new, or additional, tax,” said Pritzker. “That was the change from 15% to 35% on those who take sports bets. Not on sports betters, to be clear, because that’s been misreported. But rather on the companies that take sports bets, which is not inappropriate because there’s lots of states that charge a higher tax than we are this year.”

Opponents say the companies’ increased taxes will ultimately fall on the sports betters.

State Sen. Donald DeWitte, R-St.Charles, worried increasing sports better companies taxes from 15% to 35% will drive out business. He called it an unfriendly-business initiative.

“We could very easily fall into the trap of being too expensive for those companies to want to come here and do business,” DeWitte told The Center Square.

The governor’s proposed budget calls for $800 million in new tax hikes for larger businesses and the sports betting industry.

Dewitte said based on the expected expenditures the governor submitted in February and combined with $1 billion is tax increases that he proposed as part of the same budget, technically it’s a balanced budget on paper. But Dewitte said to call it a balanced budget, there are two things to consider.

“A, that depends on whether the legislature gives him all of the spending he asks for and B, if the legislature is willing to give him all of the $1 billion worth of additional revenues he’s asking for,” said DeWitte.

DeWitte said he is concerned about the significant expenditure with regards to the migrant crisis and that the governor is offering migrants carte blanche healthcare.

“Everyone needs to remember the governor has welcomed these people into the state with open arms,” said DeWitte. “There are a lot of other states these migrants could be headed to if not for the generous benefits we’re giving them. That burden falls on the backs of the taxpayers that already live here in the state.”

Pritzker is cold on the idea of raising taxes on things like services. At an unrelated news conference, Pritzker was asked about additional revenue ideas such as taxing services to address the $730 million budget gap in public transit. Illinois does not tax sales of service.

“I think we have to look at the cuts that need to be made,” said Pritzker. “I have never been in favor of that before [taxing services]. There may need to be a source of revenue here, but that’s not something I have favored in the past. I really don’t want to start saying, we’re not going to do this or that,” said Pritzker. “At this point there are so many pieces of this that we have to look at before we are making decisions about how we’re going to pay for what’s necessary here as we come off of support from the federal government and making sure we are restoring transit services.”

DeWitte said Republicans have never supported an expansion of the tax base.

“Keep in mind, this was only being suggested as one small piece of the mass transit proposal regarding [Regional Transportation Authority] and that’s currently under discussion,” said DeWitte. “I am happy to hear the governor is not in favor of expanding that tax base. I certainly don’t support it and I know a majority of my colleagues won’t support it as well.”

Democrats have proposed legislation that would fund public transportation to the tune of $1.5 billion annually to address the budget gap.

Pritzker is asking Illinois lawmakers to back his plan for more than $182 million to address the state’s migrant crisis, that’s not including the over $629 million to fund the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services’ programs called Health Benefits For Immigrant Adults and Seniors.

Some other key things within the budget proposal: The governor promised $1 million in grant funding to open birthing centers in communities where the mortality rate is highest, including the new Chicago South Side Birth Center. The governor wants $500 million to boost quantum computing. Quantum computing uses specialized technology to solve complex problems that classical computers or supercomputers can’t solve.

The General Assembly has a May 31 deadline to pass a budget with simple majorities.