The Illinois political landscape changed dramatically with yesterday’s general election, as Democrat J.B. Pritzker will take office as governor in January. Perhaps just as important, however, will be the huge influx of new faces to the legislature due to a vast retirement of lawmakers whose seats were often won by Democrats.
The so-called “blue wave” washed over the Illinois General Assembly yesterday, as both the House and Senate will each have more than a super-majority of Democrats. Both chambers are expected to have an easy time passing legislation echoing Democratic priorities, which will then be sent to a Democratic governor.
However, Pritzker will take office under the shadow of the state’s constant fiscal crisis. The budget for the current fiscal year ending June 30 apparently has a $1.2 billion structural deficit, while the state’s backlog of unpaid bills to service providers currently stands at $6.8 billion. Meanwhile, the unfunded pension liability for the five state-funded pension system totals $130 billion, with recent news reporting the largest of those funds – the Teachers’ Retirement System – will require a 10 percent increase in its state contribution for the upcoming fiscal year beginning July 1.
In his quest for revenue, Pritzker will most likely look to the legalization of recreational marijuana, expanding gambling, and legalization of sports betting as provided for by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in May.
The ground-breaking Tax Credit Scholarship program approved in August 2017 will most likely come under attack, just as it did in the Spring 2018 legislative session. Thousands of students across the state this fall were able to attend – for the first time – Catholic and other private schools because of the program. The Catholic Conference will be closely monitoring any attempts to chip away at the program.