Concerned about hazardous winter travel, state leaders’ plans on Monday scuttled for in-person sessions of the House and Senate this week — but Gov. JB Pritzker is still planning to outline his budget proposal.
“The governor will still deliver his state of the state address,” spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said in a brief statement. “Details will be forthcoming.”
State lawmakers had planned a three-day session this week, which would have included the governor outlining his budget proposal and delivering his “State of the State” address at the State Capitol on Wednesday at noon, his first such address during an election year in which he is on the ballot.
But late Monday, House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch and Senate President Don Harmon announced the cancellation of sessions this week, citing National Weather Service warnings that travel in central Illinois could prove “difficult if not impossible.”
“With the National Weather Service forecasting a winter storm for Central Illinois that could produce up to two feet of snow, it is in our best interest to cancel session for this week,” Welch said in a written statement.
“The winter storm warning says travel will be dangerous and we do not want to put people’s lives at risk while they’re on the road to and from Springfield.”
The Senate would convene at noon on Tuesday, but the remainder of the week’s sessions would be canceled.
“Across the state people are being told to avoid unnecessary travel and to not put themselves at risk,” Harmon said. “We will turn to our remote committee process to get the work of the people done and look forward to a break in the weather and a safe return to the Capitol hopefully next week.”
Pritzker was planning to deliver his “State of the State” address and outline his budget proposal before a joint session on Wednesday.
State law requires the budget address to be given this year on the first Wednesday in February. But it was not clear late Monday what time he would deliver it, where he would deliver it from or whether it would be live or pre-recorded.
As outlined by Pritzker’s top budget adviser, the Democratic Governor’s election-year spending plan promised to provide almost $1 billion in tax cuts, freezes and rebates.
Deputy Gov. Andy Manar said Friday that Pritzker would hold the line on the state income tax while providing relief in the grocery store, at the gas pump and on property tax bills.
The relief includes a suspension of the 1% state tax on groceries during the fiscal year starting July 1, which would save residents an estimated $360 million, Manar said last week. Pritzker’s proposal would also suspend a 2-cent-per-gallon increase to the gas tax that was scheduled to kick in this summer, keeping about $135 million in residents’ pockets.
The largest relief package would send homeowners direct rebates of up to $300 on their property tax bills, for a total of about $475 million, according to Manar.
Assuming Pritzker speaks on Zoom or some similar platform, it won’t be his first remote budget address.
Last year, the pandemic forced the governor to deliver his budget proposal during a virtual “State of the State” address in a pre-recorded speech from the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.