Breaking News
More () »

Gov. Pritzker highlights tax relief, state surplus, balanced budget plan, COVID-19 success in State of the State address

Gov. J.B. Pritzker highlighted investments in critical sectors, key tax cuts aimed at average families, and region-leading COVID-19 vaccination in his speech.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Gov. J.B. Pritzker delivered his annual State of the State Address in person on Wednesday from the Illinois State Capitol, making a return to the podium after a virtual address last year.

The governor used his time at the podium to highlight recent successes by the state government, such as in infrastructure and COVID-19 vaccination, as well as looking to the year ahead with budget proposals and tax breaks.

The data point that Pritzker lead the body of his speech with was highlighting Illinois's highest-in-the-Midwest vaccination rate. On top of that, the state leads in vaccination equity; with Illinois's communities of color seeing the highest vaccination rate in the region.

He also highlights the state's "test-to-stay" model for publics schools, which set a national standard for keeping kids safe as schools remain open to in-person classes, despite adaptive pauses in some locations due to case surges.

Pritzker moved on to pandemic safety and recovery measures, highlighting efforts to help keep childcare providers afloat, support out-of-work parents, and keep Illinoisans in their homes with housing assistance for renters and landlords.

In the contested realm of state budgeting, Pritzker announced that the state will end this fiscal year with a $1.7 billion surplus; a huge, first-time milestone after over 25 years of deficits and credit rating downgrades.

According to Pritzker, with the aid of the General Assembly and Comptroller Susana Mendoza, this state budget surplus would exist even without the federal assistance of the American Rescue Plan Act.

"Back in 2019, I promised you that we would not allow political posturing by those people to again take the state’s finances hostage. I ran for Governor to move beyond that.  And we have.  If you don’t believe me, take it from the credit rating agency S&P.  In their announcement last year of Illinois’s credit upgrade they said: 'The political gridlock that stymied governance a few fiscal years ago has dissipated,' he said. "Look, the actual work of managing Illinois’ state finances is decidedly unglamorous.  It is hours of hammering away at calcified problems of the past, persistently reducing liabilities on our state’s balance sheet, finding and implementing efficiencies and savings, upgrading systems that track expenditures, and asking every government employee to be a partner in smart budgeting.  It’s not partisan work, it’s not political work…it’s just hard work.  It requires resisting the temptation to let political expediency take over our budget process, and it demands discipline and a commitment to do what’s right."

He proposes paying an additional half a billion dollars above the minimum for the state's pension payment obligations, hoping to save taxpayers $1.8 billion and reduce the pension debt. 

He also called attention to the state's Rainy Day Fund, proposing to set aside almost $900 million over the course of two years to help protect the state from future fiscals calamities.

Pritzker highlighted efforts to build up new and old state agencies, such as increasing budgeting for the Department of Children and Family Services, investing in Behavioral Health officials, the establishing of the Division of Criminal Investigations to increase Illinois State Police forensics prowess and overall resource building.

The governor's biggest item on the docket is the Illinois Family Relief Plan, a inflation-fighting proposal to freeze the state's grocery tax, the planned increase increase in the gas tax, as well as implement property tax rebates for many homeowning families; which the state can now afford to do without jeopardizing its infrastructure plans.

Pritzker promotes Illinois as "the best place to live in the entire country," highlighting its national leading in the fight against climate change, infrastructure modernization, and Medicaid investments to help underserved communities and medically vulnerable people, such as those who need with with substance abuse, mental health, insulin, and fertility treatment.

"And at a time when politicians in some places have dipped their toes into the waters of sedition, or pulled chairs up for the ghosts of Jim Crow, or spurned the fires of educational curiosity in favor of book banning, or are telling women you have to take your reproductive health choices back to the 1950’s…at a time when some would question the very foundations of science and medicine…at a time when some would condemn simple acts of courtesy and kindness like wearing a mask so that fewer people die. THIS government in THIS state said…Not Here," Pritzker said firmly. 

"Illinois…the state of our great state is STRONG…unbreakable…and enduring.  It is sustained every day by the deep, overwhelming kindness of its people, by the hopes of its leaders and by our common commitment to face an uncertain tomorrow with the strength built by surviving our yesterdays," he stated, closing out his speech.

You can read the full transcript of the speech here.

RELATED: Here's what Gov. Pritzker said during his State of the State address


► Download the WQAD News 8 App
► Subscribe to our daily newsletter
► Subscribe to our YouTube channel  

Before You Leave, Check This Out