GOVERNOR PRITZKER DELIVERS STATE OF THE STATE AND BUDGET ADDRESSFor the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker delivered his State of the State and Budget address to a joint session of the Illinois House and Illinois Senate. COVID-19 still made its presence felt on the speech as Senate President Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) had to miss the in-person ceremony due to testing positive for the virus on February 14. Governor Pritzker continued the themes of his second inaugural address by laying out his plans for the State of Illinois in the coming years.
One of the biggest areas of emphasis for the governor is early childhood education. The governor’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget proposal includes a total appropriation of an additional $75 million for the early childhood block grant administered by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). On top of the additional early childhood money going to ISBE, the governor committed to making investments in Illinois Department of Human Services early childhood efforts. In total, the proposed budget would spend an additional $250 million on early childhood education this fiscal year. Governor Pritzker is naming this effort to provide more access to early childhood education as “Smart Start Illinois.”
In addition to the funding for early childhood education, the governor also committed to continue to invest in the Evidence-Based Funding (EBF) model. The budget proposal put forth by the governor included a new investment of $350 million into the EBF formula. In the Capitol, many have been advocating for a larger investment than the statutory minimum of $350 million new dollars, but that was not in line with the governor’s plan.
Governor Pritzker is also proposing a plan to address the workforce shortage in schools. As part of a pilot program, $70 million would be given to 170 eligible school districts for investment in the teacher pipeline, hiring incentives, and retention plans. While the districts have yet to be identified, the grant would be available to Tier 1, 2, and 3 districts with the highest number of unfilled teaching positions. The program is targeted as currently 80% of teaching vacancies are in 20% of school districts.
Also included in the plan was $86.4 million additional funding for mandated categoricals. As proposed, transportation and special education grant funding will top $1.1 billion in FY 24. While budget numbers may seem up across the board, Governor Pritzker is forecasting a decrease in revenue for FY 24. After an economy that was more robust than expected during the COVID-19 pandemic and an influx of cash from the federal government, Illinois State Government looks to make investments in areas of need while attempting to balance a budget with fewer resources. The State of Illinois FY 24 budget is projected to spend $49.6 billion, which is a decrease of nearly $350 million from FY 23.
The budget-making process has already begun under the dome as several appropriations hearings have taken place. The Illinois General Assembly is responsible for passing a budget, and the governor must sign it into law for it to take effect. With a supermajority of Democrats in both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly it is likely that the budget that passes in May will look substantially similar to the request of Governor Pritzker.