Gov. JB Pritzker said Sunday that the General Assembly took significant action to shore up the state in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, Pritzker did express disappointment that the legislature did not pass a bill that he wanted explicitly giving the state authority to enforce business closure orders that the governor thinks are needed to control the spread of the virus.
Lawmakers concluded a quick, four-day session Saturday passing a budget and other legislation that was focused almost exclusively on dealing with the economic fallout from the pandemic and providing help to those hurt by the virus.
"In just four days, ambitious legislation was passed that invests in core priorities and continues to innovate the way that our government operates in the faces of this global pandemic," Pritzker said. "While there is much more work that needs to be done, progress has happened here."
Schools were helped with trying to adapt to the virus through remote learning authority and modifying graduation requirements, Pritzker said. Hospitals were helped through renewal of the assessment program that provides more Medicaid dollars and frontline workers were helped with expanded workers compensation protections and increased unemployment eligibility, the governor said.
"We protected voters against the greatest health challenge of our lifetimes," Pritzker said of the expanded vote by mail plan passed last week. He said the restructuring of the tax rates for a Chicago casino will help put people to work on infrastructure projects. Lowering the taxes on the Chicago casino are viewed as crucial to actually getting that project off of the ground. Proceeds from the casino will help pay for the capital bill lawmakers approved last week.
Although the legislature didn't pass a separate bill to help renters and those with mortgages with assistance during the pandemic, Pritzker noted the state budget includes $500 million to help them with payments. Money to help struggling families with utility assistance was also included.
"Make no mistake, these are just our first steps forward in what will be a long and difficult journey," Pritzker said. "This virus has blasted a hole through estimated incoming revenues."
— The State Journal Register