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Major shortfall, funding for migrant crisis expected in Gov. Pritzker's budget proposal

Illinois lawmakers to go head-to-head over state budget
Illinois lawmakers to go head-to-head over state budget 02:47

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) -- Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker was to deliver his sixth budget address on Wednesday – while his own office predicts a deficit of hundreds of millions of dollars.

This comes just after the governor announced he would ask for an additional $182 million to help the migrant crisis.

Pritzker is expected to explain Wednesday how he plans to balance migrant funding with other needs the state has. Afterward, the real work begins in the form of budget negotiations.

"We want to see a course correction in the upcoming budget that the governor proposes tomorrow," said Illinois Senate Republican Leader John Curran (R-Lemont), "a more transparent accounting of what is actually being spent, and a shift back to actually spending priorities on Illinois citizens."

Curran on Tuesday joined other Illinois GOP representatives to talk about their biggest concerns with the upcoming budget.

"We want to see efforts to make Illinois more affordable for working families, seniors, and our most vulnerable populations," said Curran.

Top of mind is the migrant crisis – and the governor's recent announcement to ask for an additional $182 million to help pay for services for asylum seekers, on top of a previously-committed $160 million.

"At the end of the day, if the governor does not shift away from his focus on making Illinois the most welcoming state in the nation, taxpayers are going to continue to suffer for that," said Curran.

This is also all while the governor's office previously announced it expects an $891 million budget shortfall.

David Merriman is a public policy professor at the University of Illinois Chicago. He said that $891 million shortfall estimate is not a shocking or insurmountable figure.

"It's not easy to come up with $800 million – don't get me wrong – but that kind fluctuation happens very frequently," Merriman said.

But Merriman has other worries about the state budget.

"Much more significant problems that we worry about is the transit problem – in that ridership has gone down a lot, and there's quite a bit of money that would be needed to keep the public transit system running," Merriman said.

Lawmakers at odds over Illinois state budget 02:35

Other concerns of Merriman's include spending money to bring kids up to speed on reading and math in a post-COVID learning environment, and the potential for the value of commercial real estate to drop as people continue to work from home.

"And the burden that could put on local governments – and potentially school districts," Merriman said of the commercial real estate devaluation worry.

Some Democrats see the extra spending as reassuring. Illinois state Rep. LaShawn K. Ford (D-Chicago) said the proposed funding for migrants says something about what the state can afford.

"If the governor announces that he's going to spend almost $200 million taxpayer dollars on asylum seekers – new arrivals – that's a sign we can meet the challenges of even our American citizens," said Ford. "The governor's announcement for possibly new dollars for a surprise budget pressure is an indication that if there's a will, there's a way."

Rep. Ford said he expects a relatively smooth budget negotiation process. Gov. Pritzker is also expected to touch on funding for early childhood education – something about which he is known to be passionate.

It remains to be seen how Pritzker plans to balance it all.

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