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Illinois Looks To Borrow $5 Billion In Order To Cover Budget Deficit During COVID-19


This story is part of an NPR nationwide analysis of states' revenue and budgets during the pandemic.

Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker's three-month shutdown of much of the state's economy through his stay-at-home orders and business closures has blown an epic hole in the Illinois state budget.

The spending plan that the state Legislature's Democratic-led majorities settled on relies on borrowing up to $5 billion from the Federal Reserve next year. Despite the lost revenue to the state, legislators kept spending relatively flat in the new budget.

"There's a storm – a giant storm – blowing across our land and blowing across the state of Illinois," House Majority Leader Greg Harris, a Democrat from Chicago, said as he argued against making drastic cuts in government funding to schools, first responders and other government programs.

All told, the Illinois Department of Public Health's budget increased by 144% compared with last year. The state will also make the full required payments — more than $10 billion — to its vastly underfunded pension funds that give retirement benefits to teachers and university and state employees.

Republicans took umbrage with the lack of cuts and the widespread spending authority lawmakers were handing over to Pritzker as part of the state's COVID-19 response. "This budget does not take a step forward in accountability," said Rep. Tom Demmer, a Republican from Dixon. "It further gives a longer leash to an executive branch that has not earned it.

Tony Arnold covers Illinois state politics for WBEZ in Chicago.

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Tony Arnold
Tony Arnold covers Illinois state politics for WBEZ. His investigations have ranged from the multiple Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks at the Quincy veterans’ home that resulted in the deaths of more than a dozen residents, to documenting an increase in the deaths of children who had contact with Illinois’ child welfare system. He’s also covered the unprecedented two-year state budget impasse, Chicago mayoral elections, national political conventions, and he’s edited the daily news desk. He’s won numerous Illinois AP and Peter Lisagor awards for his reporting. Tony has a B.A. in American Studies from Miami University. He’s previously worked at WNIJ in DeKalb, IL and WMUB in Oxford, OH. His first job in journalism was as a stringer, recording stats for local high school sports.