Illinois Republicans claim Democrats aren’t transparent about “pork projects” in FY23 budget, Dems bite back

Illinois House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) talks with reporters in...
Illinois House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) talks with reporters in Springfield on May 12, 2022.(Mike Miletich)
Published: May. 12, 2022 at 3:40 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - Illinois House Republicans claim Democrats left them out of the budget negotiation process again this spring. Some of the GOP leaders even argue backroom deals drive “fiscal chaos” for the state.

Budget bills are frequently introduced and passed within the final days of the spring session in Springfield. However, Republicans feel there should be time allowed for the public to comment on state spending before lawmakers vote.

House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (Western Springs) said Democrats frequently talk about open government, but he claims nothing has changed under the leadership of Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch (D-Hillside). Republicans said Thursday that Illinoisans can expect tax increases in future years because Democratic leaders continued to increase spending in this budget while revenues decline.

“They’ve chosen to use federal dollars that came to Illinois to try to help us deal with the economic impact of the global pandemic and instead have directed those dollars toward projects that have nothing to do with COVID in Democratic-only districts,” said Rep. Tom Demmer (R-Dixon).

Demmer argues that money should have been used to pay off the remaining debt in the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund. Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Greg Harris (D-Chicago) noted every Republican voted against the budget that supports education, affordable housing, and public safety.

The Fiscal Year 2023 budget also prioritized $1 billion for the rainy day fund and $500 million for pension obligations. Democrats have cheered the budget investments as another step forward for fiscal responsibility.

“As usual, Republicans want to distract from the fact that their values are wildly out of touch with everyday families,” Harris said. “The ‘fiscal chaos’ occurred when Republicans were in control, ruined our state finances, and let people suffer across the state. Today, since Democrats passed our budget, the three largest credit rating agencies in America have given Illinois an upgrade four times in the past month alone.”

Although, House Republicans say it’s election-year gimmicks. Durkin said this type of secrecy and lack of transparency leads to more corruption. He argues that wouldn’t happen if the GOP ever takes control of the House in the future.

“If we have the majority, there will be public vetting of each and every one of these projects,” Durkin said. “That is my guarantee to you because for each one of these projects everybody has gotta stand up on their two feet and justify it and why it’s going to be helpful to their community.”

Still, Democratic leaders say they negotiated with business and labor groups to take responsible action on the UI trust fund and pension obligations. Democrats also said Republicans refused to bring their own financial solutions to the table.

“Despite their talk, they repeatedly voted against fiscal responsibility, paying debt early, and interest savings,” said Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Swansea). “Instead of using tired, misleading political rhetoric, we encourage our colleagues across the aisle to join us in supporting Illinois families as we deliver actual fiscal responsibility.”

Rep. Ryan Spain (R-Peoria) said Democrats didn’t listen to Republican ideas for more tax credits to help Illinois families. Spain feels the budget is a “mockery” of the real needs that Illinois families need right now. He said lawmakers only focused on tricks and gimmicks delivered by Democrats.

“We need to be focused on these key issues - corruption, cost of living, and crime,” Spain said. “Not election-year gimmicks and Democratic pork projects to secure the votes of their members and not meaningful reforms that we need to move our state forward.”

Meanwhile, Welch says a healthy budget can rebuild the state’s finances and invest in community priorities. The Speaker said that is something Illinois Republicans know nothing about those priorities, given their record of “responsible budgeting” under former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

“Luckily for Illinoisans, they don’t have to rely on the words of politicians,” Welch said. “They’ve heard how Democrats are turning this state around from independent fiscal watchdogs and the credit rating agencies.”

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