Pritzker’s Self-Declared “Sanctuary State” Policy on Immigration Comes with Local Consequences

Gov. JB Pritzker recently introduced his state budget proposal for the next fiscal year. 

A budget is a set of policy choices: for every taxpayer dollar pledged to cause “X,” it means that cause “Y” did not receive that same dollar. Also, let’s not forget that these “dollars” come from taxing the people of Illinois and that the very collection of taxes, by definition, means less money in the pockets of families, students, and seniors on fixed incomes. By its nature, the process of state budgeting is a “zero-sum game.”  

For years now, the Governor has portrayed himself as a “caring progressive,” loudly proclaiming that Illinois is a “sanctuary state.” It was easy to do when the problem of immigration was largely contained in the South. Now that the crisis has reached Illinois and his budget includes $1 billion in proposed spending on housing, healthcare, and other immigrant-related costs, Governor Pritzker blames those same southern states for now causing Illinois to share in the pain (never mind that those states shouldered it alone for years). But let’s not forget the Governor’s own complicity in this mess by throwing open the rhetorical welcome mat to this massive influx of tens of thousands of immigrants (and his administration’s extension of healthcare benefits, opening ‘welcome centers,’ housing, and other “freebies” to immigrants didn’t precisely slow things down either). 

But let’s get out of the blame game and look at the costs of all of this in the context of the Governor’s proposed budget. What other “choices” are necessary to underwrite his primarily manufactured $1 billion immigrant crisis? Here are some items of local interest from the Governor’s suggested budget:

  • Tax increases on Working Families. Taxes will go up on every family earning less than $250K (individuals)/$500K (joint filers) a year – in the 51st Senate District, that is just about everyone. You got that right, the Governor’s budget (p. 65 to be specific) plans to raise personal income taxes by $93 million next year – including taxes on the working poor. In total, the Governor’s budget has $1 billion worth of tax increases. Does $1 billion sound strangely familiar?
  • EIU to Receive 4.56%Cut to Budget Request. While it is true that the Governor’s budget provides an overall increase from last year of 2%, this is far short of what Eastern had said that it needed. When viewed through the lens of their actual request, EIU is receiving $2.3 million less than they had requested, representing a 4.56% cut to their original request. The budget also cuts mental health reimbursements to 4-year and community colleges statewide.
  • The University of Illinois to Receive 9% Cut. Like EIU, the Gov’s budget shows small increase (1.8%) on paper from last year, which may sound like good news to those in Campustown. Not so much when you consider that this is $70 million less than what U of I President Tim Killeen had asked for. Indeed, the Governor’s proposal, in reality, represents a 9% cut from the university’s original request.
  • Increased Underfunding of Developmentally & Intellectually Disabled Citizens. Using the “GuideHouse” rate study, our state was already $500 million behind in genuinely meeting the daily needs of our DD friends, family, and fellow citizens. Next year, under the Governor’s budget plan, that number will rise to at least $630 million in unmet needs for those who cannot support themselves.
  • Transfers to Chicago from Local Roads. The Governor’s plan would transfer $175 million from local road funds to the Chicago Regional Transit Authority.

The $1 billion in immigrant spending would have gone a long way to alleviate the above. But these are the choices the Governor is proposing.  

I agree with him in principle in one area: he is proposing to eliminate the grocery tax. Kudos for raising this issue, but details matter. In a “vacuum,” this is a good deal for the people of Illinois; unfortunately, this isn’t a vacuum. For starters, when you factor in all his other tax increases, this is sort of like “putting $1 in your left pocket, while taking $2 out of your right pocket.” 

Moreover, it needs to be noted that the grocery tax doesn’t impact the state budget – it is collected by local governments for local services. The Governor’s plan does not “backfill” this loss of revenue to locals, effectively shifting the tax burden from the “grocery taxpayers” to the “property taxpayers.” Not precisely true tax relief. Without reimbursement, communities will be left to: (i) cut police, fire, roads, and other services that local municipal governments provide; (ii) increase property taxes to make up the difference; or, (iii) some combination of both. This is why the Illinois Municipal League is opposing Gov. Pritzker’s proposal in its current form.

But there is an opportunity to do this right. For years, the Senate Republican Caucus and I have proposed permanently eliminating the grocery tax as we understand just how regressively hurtful it is to working families, students, and seniors. But unlike the Governor’s, our plan includes a backfill to cover local losses – precisely to avoid shifting the tax burden onto property taxpayers as the Governor proposes. 

Unbelievably, the Governor’s response so far to this “constructive” criticism has not been to engage with us in backfilling the loss to provide true tax relief; instead, when called out by the media, he responded that he supports allowing local governments to reimpose the grocery tax at the regional level! You can’t make this up, folks!

With grocery prices at a 30-year high, such a flippant response will come off to many as “Let them eat cake!” Maybe he is worried that any “backfill” required to provide true tax relief would leave less money in the state tax coffers to underwrite the immigrant crisis. But I digress.

As the budget negotiations kick into high gear in Springfield in the coming weeks, I ask that people remember that policy choices are not made in a vacuum. Quite the opposite: somebody else will take a hit for every dollar spent. If the people of Illinois wish (as expressed through the Governor and the members of the supermajority Democrat party in power) to continue to be a “sanctuary state,” then they must also understand and be willing to accept that other important needs will not be adequately met, and that taxes on the actual citizens of Illinois will go up to pay for these new non-citizens. 

Earlier this month, the Democratic mayor of New York City declared it is time for NYC to rethink its “sanctuary city” policies – a very realistic position to take. I would assert that we never should have been a “sanctuary state” in the first place, but in any event, it is well past time for Illinois to end our status as such. Indeed, Pritzker’s budget makes clear whose side he is on, and it comes with real consequences for the people of east central Illinois. If you disagree, please do so on an informed consent basis, knowing, acknowledging, and accepting the true consequences and trade-offs required to underwrite the “virtue signaling” of those in power. 

Yours truly, 

Chapin Rose
Illinois State Senator, 51st District

Chapin Rose

Want to stay up to date with your Senator?

Sign up for the District E-Newsletter below: