Pritzker Talks Healthcare, Education At Budget Address

 
J.B. Pritzker

Governor J.B. Pritzker at the start of his annual budget address to the Illinois General Assembly.

Illinois Department of Central Management Services

Gov. J.B. Pritzker stressed statewide unity in his second budget address on Wednesday. The first-term governor announced his budget priorities for the next fiscal year, with a focus on affordable education and healthcare. 

Pritzker said his budget would make community college tuition-free for all students whose families make under $45,000 per year. The governor's budget also includes a 5% funding increase for the state's public colleges and universities, which Pritzker said would allow the University of Illinois to provide free tuition to students whose families earn less than $67,000 annually. 

Pritzker also asked the General Assembly for an extra $50 million to move the state toward universal preschool for all low-income families. 

On the healthcare side, Pritzker proposed investing an extra $40 million in mental health and addiction treatment services. The governor's budget includes $4.5 million to restore the state's healthcare navigator program, which he said would lower healthcare costs for small businesses and families who purchase health insurance through the federal marketplace. Pritzker also touted his commitment to the federal immunization program, and a proposed budget increase of $2 million for a program that delivers meals to senior citizens. The governor also contrasted his approach to social safety net and healthcare spending to that of President Trump's administration, which eliminated the healthcare navigator program. 

He also used part of his speech to highlight his administration's successes in the last year, including the legalization of cannabis and how the state can use those funds in the upcoming fiscal year. Pritzker said 25% of cannabis revenue will be reinvested in communities impacted by the criminalization of cannabis. 

Pritzker announced a proposed budget increase of 20% over last fiscal year for the Department of Children and Family Services. He said the agency needs attention and resources to implement reforms at all levels, including employee training and facilities. 

Throughout his speech, Pritzker repeated the theme of statewide unity. 

“Some of you need to stop pretending that one part of the state can exist without the other,” he said. “We are one Illinois.”

Story source: WILL