The Illinois General Assembly adjourned its spring session Sunday and delivered first-term Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s “think big” agenda as the Senate voted to raise motorists’ taxes and fees and embark upon a massive statewide gambling expansion that included a Chicago casino and legalized sports betting to pay for new roads, bridges and public buildings.
The new governor took to the floor of the Senate as the chamber concluded its work, with Democratic Senate President John Cullerton saying that lawmakers and the public would have “all summer to thank and pay tribute to him” as he signs into law various portions of his agenda. That included legalizing recreational marijuana, endorsing a sweeping abortion-rights bill and lawmakers putting a measure on the 2020 ballot asking voters to amend the state constitution to allow for a graduated-rate income tax to replace the mandated flat-rate tax. Lawmakers also reached a bipartisan agreement on a $40 billion state spending plan that legislators in both parties said was balanced.
Despite being forced into overtime this weekend after failing to meet its scheduled May 31 adjournment date, the size and scope of Pritzker’s achievements less than six months into office — often with Republican support — represented the release of a pent-up desire among lawmakers to show accomplishments after four years of governmental dysfunction and gridlock due to the ideological battles between former one-term GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democratic-controlled legislature.
“For the first time in many years, we met our most basic responsibility in this state — a real balanced budget,” Pritzker said Sunday during a Capitol news conference. “Just a few years ago, just passing a budget was considered nearly impossible. But this year, by passing a balanced budget, we’ve demonstrated that a progressive, forward-thinking vision is in perfect harmony with fiscal responsibility.”
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