Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker announced Thursday the people who will advise him on the budget as he prepares to take office, including a former comptroller and the former head of the Senate Republican caucus.
Former Comptroller Dan Hynes was named to chair the Budget and Innovation Committee, which will assess the financial problems facing the state and suggest solutions to them.
"Creating a balanced budget for the state of Illinois is our top priority," Lt. Gov.-elect Juliana Stratton said during a news conference in Springfield. "It is absolutely vital for growing our economy."
Pritzker will be sworn into office Jan. 14. Within weeks after that, he will have to deliver a budget proposal to the General Assembly that will have to begin addressing the severe financial problems still facing the state. The state bill backlog still stands at $7.5 billion, there is an estimated $1 billion hole in the current state budget and pension payments continue to restrict spending on other programs.
"The budget is not only going to be the top priority, but it is going to impact everything our new governor is going to try to accomplish," Hynes said.
The people selected for the committee represent both government and the private sector and both political parties. Former Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno is a member of the committee. She resigned the Senate in 2017 not long after Gov. Bruce Rauner undercut her efforts with Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, to bring an end to the budget impasse.
Other members include Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, Decatur Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe, Springfield Park Board President Leslie Sgro, Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery, and Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, and Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields, two of the legislature's budget and revenue experts.
Also on the committee are the chiefs of staff for the House and Senate Democrats, Ralph Martire, executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability and Laurence Msall, president of the government finance watchdog Civic Federation.
"This committee is populated with experts, with people who have real experience," Pritzker said.
Pritzker said there are no limitations on what the committee can discuss for dealing with the financial issues. However, he said the transition committee would not focus on his goal of implementing a graduated income tax in the state. That will come from negotiations to be held later.
One thing the committee will examine is the state's still unsuccessful effort to sell the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago. At least twice, sale of the state office building has been part of the budget adopted by lawmakers and it still hasn't sold. Pritzker said the cost/benefit to the state of selling the building needs to be examined.