Narrow house

Illinois Democrats discuss budget, help Ukrainian refugees

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WGEM) — Illinois lawmakers have just over three weeks until their spring session ends.

The House just wrapped up hearings with state agencies and vendors discussing what they hope to see in the budget. Now negotiations for changes to Governor JB Pritzker’s budget proposal begin.

Right now, lawmakers are considering how much money they can put into the unemployment trust fund, which has a $4.5 billion debt. The Senate last week passed a plan to use $2 billion from the US bailout to help fill that hole.

House Majority Leader Greg Harris (D-Chicago) explained Thursday that Senate Bill 2803 had been approved by Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, Senate Speaker Don Harmon and Pritzker.

But how will the remaining $2.5 billion debt of the unemployment insurance fund be settled?

Harris said there could be solutions with bail or using other types of income.

“What has happened in the past is that companies have agreed to raise the unemployment tax to service the bonds,” Harris noted. “There are different actions workers can take. So there’s a bunch of different things that they model.

Illinois has about $3.5 billion to use from the US bailout. With $2 billion already set aside to meet the unemployment fund, organizations supporting hotels, restaurants and affordable housing are vying for the rest. However, some hope the money will go to developmental disability services.

State lawmakers invested $170 million in services in the fiscal year 2022 budget, but Pritzker has only proposed $94.8 million for next year. Providers and advocates want a $246 million investment this spring. Many hear Pritzker and Democratic lawmakers promoting the billion-dollar family tax relief plan included in his budget proposal. Developmental service providers say some of that funding should help those most in need instead of a tax holiday.

“It’s one of the hardest things we have to do as legislators. People come to us every day and they all have really dire needs. There are going to be so many requests from people who have needs and things that need to be met,” Harris said, arms outstretched.

“The reality is there will be so many resources,” Harris explained, bringing his hands together with a tight gap. “We have to look at all of this. We are going to have to weigh these things and we are going to have to make tough choices on all of these fronts. »

House Democrats also tabled a proposal on Thursday to impose sanctions on Russia and provide assistance to Ukrainians.

Rep. Lindsey LaPointe (D-Chicago) said her plan calls for Illinois to divest itself of Russian stocks and sovereign debt. This includes funds from the Illinois Teachers’ Retirement System and money overseen by the Illinois State Board of Investment.

The bill could also require the Illinois Department of Social Services to establish emergency rules to implement a resettlement program for Ukrainian refugees. LaPointe said it could help refugees receive health care, mental health services and other critical needs when they arrive in Illinois.

Many lawmakers across the state are hearing from voters whose loved ones fear for their lives. Many have held rallies in support of Ukraine and calls for action against Russia.

“They’re asking for a visible show of support and making sure we’re using our toolkit in Illinois to do all we can,” LaPointe said.

The legislation could also develop a new task force to investigate Russian money laundering in the residential, industrial and commercial real estate sectors in Illinois. LaPointe said the state cannot sit back and ignore what is happening in unnecessary warfare. She hopes the plan will gain bipartisan support and pass quickly.

House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) introduced a bill last month to force Illinois to remove all investment in Russian companies. Rep. Tom Demmer (R-Dixon) also outlined a plan to provide $20 million to help house Ukrainian refugees.

“At this dark and dangerous time, it is crucial that we stand strong and unequivocal with the people of Ukraine and offer all the tools at our disposal to provide assistance to refugees fleeing the invasion of their sovereign nation,” he said. Demmer said.

Copyright 2022 WGEM. All rights reserved.