Local Republican lawmakers are critical of the way Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed budget would reform the way Illinois businesses are taxed and other aspects of the plan.
Pritzker announced his $41.6 billion budget on Wednesday via prerecorded video that served as his annual State of the State address and his annual budget address.
Local legislators’ criticisms of the budget were varied, but all referenced the element of the proposal regarding business taxes. While Pritzker presented these elements as “closing corporate loopholes,” critics call them a tax hike.
Rep. Adam Niemerg, R-Dieterich, in an interview pointed to several problems he sees in the governor’s budget proposal. Like his colleagues, he doesn’t support the changes in tax code.
“He’s billing it as a balanced budget, but it’s achieved through removing tax breaks for businesses,” said Niemerg. “That’s a tax increase for our businesses.”
Some business groups, such as the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, Illinois Retail Merchant Association and Illinois Chamber of Commerce, are also critical of these changes.
Illinois Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank and research group, has released reports supporting ending many of these tax credits in the past.
Niemerg also took issue with the way Prtizker referred to Illinois Republicans.
“While the right-wing carnival barkers have used our state as a laboratory to undermine essential public investments, the fact of the matter is Illinois state government spends less money per person than the majority of states in this nation,” Pritzker said in his address.
“We were called carnival barkers,” said Niemerg. “The Democrats firmly control the house and the senate and Governor Pritzker is in the Governor’s Mansion, so if anyone is to blame, it’s them.”
When asked what ways he would like to tackle the state budget, Niemerg said he wanted to start with spending cuts.
“He [Pritzker] ordered his agency heads to make a list of cuts to spending,” Niemerg said. “We should start with the governor providing his list!”
In December, Prtizker announced $700 million in spending reductions for the 2021 fiscal year. His fiscal year 2022 budget proposal keeps most state agencies’ funding flat, with some exceptions.
Niemerg also pointed to a controversial bill from 2017 that was signed into law by Republican Bruce Rauner. It expanded coverage for abortions to people enrolled in Medicaid and the state employees’ health insurance program.
“I would like to have a discussion about taxpayer-funded abortions and repealing HB40,” said Niemerg. “That’s a drop in the bucket, but it’s a starting place.”
Rep. Blaine Wilhour, R-Beecher City, said that the answer to the state’s problems is large-scale change in budgeting priorities.
“Unless these budgets are institution structural reforms to spending like pension reform, zero-based budgeting, spending caps, government consolidation and elimination and smart deregulation, you can rest assured they are not truly balanced,” said Wilhour in a statement.
The final major point of critique from state-level Republicans is the budget’s balance. Analysts with Illinois House Republicans calculated the budget, if it were based on current Illinois law, would be out of balance by $1.65 billion. This is because the budget projects several changes to tax law and assumes continued federal funding.
“Pritzker is again relying on job-killing tax hikes that haven’t passed and other budget tricks,” said Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Louisville.
“Eliminating tax breaks on small businesses is a tax increase,” Rep. Brad Halbrook, R-Shelbyville, said in a statement. “These taxes will hurt small businesses and ultimately hurt consumers with higher prices that will be the result of higher taxes.”
“Once again, Governor Pritzker proves he cannot be trusted. (Wednesday’s) proposal includes close to $1 billion in new taxes on small businesses in Illinois,” Rep. Chris Miller, R-Oakland, said in a statement.