Senate Week in Review: Feb. 12-16, 2024

SPRINGFIELD – As the Governor prepares for his upcoming budget address, concerns are mounting over the state’s looming deficit and the increasing costs of services for migrants.

In other news, the historic Route 66 is set to receive a face-lift in advance of its upcoming centennial celebration, and the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association has relaunched its Makers Madness competition.

Upcoming Budget Address Shadowed by Looming Deficit

With the annual state budget address scheduled for Feb. 21, State Sen. Jil Tracy (R-Quincy) says Illinois lawmakers are anxious to see how the Governor addresses an expected budgetary deficit and various points of contention, including the ongoing migrant crisis and free healthcare program for noncitizens.

While the U.S. economy has been more resilient than some economists originally anticipated, the state’s economy is expected to experience a significant decrease in revenues in the coming year, all the while spending is continuing to increase. According to the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, Illinois is projected to face a nearly $900 million deficit for Fiscal Year 2025.

Gov. JB Pritzker’s program to provide free healthcare to noncitizens is a particular point of contention in the upcoming budget process. The program has become one of the state’s largest fiscal responsibilities as well as one of its most scrutinized programs. The Governor claimed last year that new copayment requirements for migrants were expected to reduce some costs. $550 million was allocated for the program, but current estimates say the cost will be at least $200 million over budget. Senate Republicans have repeatedly pushed for the Governor and his allies to focus on other priorities, including existing programs for struggling Illinois citizens.

The projected deficit is also partly due to new permanent spending that was created during the height of the pandemic and funded with federal relief funds. Now, those federal sources of money have mostly dried up.

Tracy says Senate Republicans have repeatedly warned Democratic leaders about the potential risks that reckless spending growth would create on the state’s finances once federal funds were exhausted. She says those warnings were ignored and notes the continued push for new programs and more spending has put the state’s finances in a precarious position.

Route 66 Set to Get a Face Lift

Historic Route 66 is set to receive a major face-lift in Illinois. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Development recently announced that $3.3 million has been allocated to projects lining the historic route in preparation of its centennial celebration in 2026.

The funds will go toward enhancing experiences and increasing electric vehicle infrastructure along the route, which has been nicknamed “The Main Street of America.” The modernization of Route 66 will be spread across all 300 miles of Illinois roadway it occupies.

Officials are hopeful the updates will boost the economy of small Illinois towns along the route that once depended upon frequent travelers to stop and shop at their businesses. The goal is to encourage more people to use the route and patronize those businesses.

This modernization project is an extension of the state’s larger “Middle of Everything” tourism campaign. The campaign aims to pay homage to the state’s Midwest roots, centralized location, and highlights how much the state has to offer visitors.

Makers’ Madness Makes a Return

The Illinois Manufacturers’ Association is once again bringing back its bracket contest, March Madness style, to determine the Coolest Thing Made in Illinois. The tournament, officially named Makers Madness, spotlights Illinois products through fan participation and online voting.

To qualify, the product submitted to the competition must be made in Illinois. Nominations are open now until March 3 and the field will be narrowed down to 16 contestants through voting March 3-5. The Coolest Thing Made in Illinois will be announced at an awards ceremony on April 10 at the Governor’s Mansion. This contest brings attention to the many incredible products manufactured in Illinois.

Past winners include the world’s largest mechanical truck, the 797F Mining truck, made by Caterpillar Inc. in Decatur; the Self Regulating Traffic Signal Heater, which heats traffic signals so they will not get frozen or damaged by ice, made by Termico Technologies in Elk Grove Village; and the Rosenberg Moon Habitat, which is a 3D-printed structure used to house humans on the moon, made by Ingersoll Machine tools in Rockford.

Nominations and votes can be submitted on the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association website at

Jil Tracy

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