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THIS WEEK: Budget passed, campaigning begins

The $46 billion Illinois budget is hailed by Democrats and criticized by Republicans.

MOLINE, Ill. — It took lawmakers until the early hours before they passed a new Illinois State Budget.

It's not unusual. It usually comes down to the 11th hour, if not later.

And once the budget was approved by the Democrat's supermajority in both houses of the General Assembly, candidates from both parties are campaigning either for or against the sweeping changes and priorities packed inside the 3,400-page, $46.5 billion fiscal plan.

"These are election-year gimmicks and election-year gains," said State Sen. Win Stoller, the Peoria Republican whose district includes parts of Henry, Mercer, Knox, and seven other area counties.

The short-term relief includes freezing the motor fuel tax's planned 2022 increase until later this year, suspending the 1% sales tax on just groceries for a year and a one-time property tax income tax credit rebate check. 

That rebate is welcomed by Republicans, but Stoller said it pales in comparison to salary increases awarded to lawmakers.

"Now, we do not deserve an increase while the citizens of Illinois are struggling from inflation," Stoller said on News 8 THIS WEEK with Jim Mertens. "Yeah, we gave them $50 checks while we gave ourselves $2,800." 

You can listen to our entire interview with State Sen. Win Stoller on THE CITIES PODCAST.

Democrats say the state budget helps people across the state.

"We’ve achieved our state’s strongest fiscal position in generations, and we prioritized the education, public safety, health and welfare of the residents of Illinois," said Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

"This budget is fiscally and socially responsible," Illinois Democratic House Speaker Chris Welch said. "And it responds to the needs of the people."

But Republicans say Democrats are buying votes with money coming from federal COVID relief and increased tax revenues being generated by higher prices due to inflation.

"We are in an inflation-induced sugar high right now," said Republican Floor Leader State Rep. Mark Batinick.

Republicans point to the state's use of federal COVID monies that could have fully paid the state's Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund debt.

"We had all the money that we needed to solve this problem," Stoller said. "We were given $8.1 billion in ARPA funds, those are the federal bail-out money, and we were given all the money we needed but instead of using it to solve this problem."

"The Democrats and the Governor spent it on all kinds of pork projects," he added.

Watch "News 8 THIS WEEK with Jim Mertens" Sunday mornings at 10 on WQAD News 8.

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