With the signing of a new state budget, Illinois families, students and businesses can be proud of the work we have done to help move our state forward.
I want to commend Governor Bruce Rauner for his leadership on this important issue. At the outset, he called for a budget that was responsible, balanced, contained no tax increases and ensured our commitment to education funding remained our number one priority. I also want to thank my House and Senate colleagues on both side of the aisle for their hard work to make this vision a reality.
The budget we approved holds the line on taxes while cutting more than $1 billion in spending from the auto-pilot expenditures that would have resulted from no changes to current law. In fact, thanks to Republicans, we were able to reduce or eliminate more than a dozen Democrat bills that would have increased state spending by more than $500 million each year.
We reaffirmed our commitment to education by adding an additional $350 million for the new K-12 Education evidence-based funding formula, resulting in more financial support for schools across Illinois and reducing reliance on local property taxes. It is worth noting that since taking office the Governor has increased support for K-12 education by $1.23 billion.
A priority of ours was to build up Illinois’ colleges and universities. Higher education is the foundation of our future workforce and an economic development engine that can have a positive impact on the entire state. Under this budget, a two percent across-the-board increase for operations will help reduce pressure to raise tuition, and the new merit-based scholarship program AIM HIGH will receive $25 million from the state and a matching $25 million from universities to help retain Illinois students. This budget also funds the MAP Grant program at FY 18 levels.
While this budget is the byproduct of compromise and negotiating, we still have our work cut out for us to put our state on strong fiscal footing for years to come. Illinois’ future success will only come from real reforms that make the Land of Lincoln more competitive for taxpayers and businesses. We can’t continue to limp along from budget to budget and pretend everything will be fine — we have to fight for reforms that will put us all on a new path toward a better future.