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Some optimistic, others worried, about Illinois’ budget future

SPRINGFIELD (Illinois News Network) -- Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposal for the coming budget received a largely partisan response.

The freshman governor’s budget increases spending to an estimated $39 billion, a record high.

State Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, said she’s optimistic lawmakers will approve the spending plan on time.

“And to finally stop really doing disseminating cuts to our social infrastructure that has been really paying a horrible price over the last five years,” Steans said.

Americans for Prosperity Illinois Deputy State Director Brian Costin said he’s not as optimistic for taxpayers.

“[Pritzker’s budget address] was very, very light on reforms that would save taxpayers money, totally left off the table any type of meaningful pension reform, which is the No. 1 cost diver in state government, and essentially promised big tax hikes in the future for the people of Illinois,” Costin said.

Pritzker left alone the state’s property tax rates, but promised to fight aggressively for a progressive tax for future budget years.

For some state lawmakers, it’s not what they heard at Wednesday’s budget address, it’s what wasn’t addressed.

“I’ll tell you what is top of mind is what wasn’t heard: Property taxes,” said State Rep. Mark Batinick, R-Plainfield. “We didn’t hear about property tax relief.”

State Rep. Robert Martwick, D-Chicago, agreed he didn’t hear enough about how to tackle the second highest property taxes in the country.

“If you really wanted to improve the overall health and economic wellbeing in our state, you need to address property taxes,” Martwick said.

Batinick agree, but went further.

“The best way to fix our problems is to grow our way out of it and if we’re going to grow our way out of it, we need to fix our regulatory environment, we need to fix property taxes and frankly we need to fix the corruption climate we have in this state, and that is a budget issue,” Batinick said.

Businesses shy away from investing in areas where they think there’s corruption, he added. Studies have shown where there’s more corruption in government, there’s more waste, fraud and abuse, costing taxpayers more.

Pritzker didn’t mention corruption or conflicts of interest once in his speech

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