Pritzker proposes 2024 fiscal year budget, focuses on education and behavioral health


Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/TNS

Gov. J.B. Pritzker. He proposed early childhood education improvements and a centralized behavioral health portal during his State of the State address.

Lily Ogburn, Reporter

Gov. J.B. Pritzker delivered his State of the State address Wednesday, proposing budget allocations for the 2024 fiscal year and highlighting plans to improve access to education and behavioral health services.

In Pritzker’s proposed budget, FY24 General Funds expenditures would total $49.6 billion, a 0.7% ($349 million) decrease from FY23.

During the address, Pritzker introduced Smart Start Illinois, an initiative focused on improving access to pre-K and childcare. 

The four-year plan Pritzker proposed would ensure there are spaces in pre-schools for every 3- and 4-year-old in Illinois. In its first year, Smart Start Pre-K would create 5,000 more pre-K seats.

He said many families in Illinois live in “early childhood deserts” where there are no options for early childhood and childcare programs. Smart Start Illinois will allocate $100 million to expand existing providers and build new facilities, he said.

“(Smart Start Illinois) makes our existing programs more equitable, giving moderate income families greater access to quality programs and investing in an early childhood workforce made up largely of women and people of color,” Pritzker said. 

The program will also increase funding for the Early Childhood Block Grant program — which increases access to health and learning services for young children — by $75 million this year, Pritzker said.

In a news release after the speech, State Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz (D-Glenview) said she was pleased to see Pritzker focus on early childhood education. 

“Studies have shown that high quality early childhood education including pre-K, is among the most effective investments we can make in a child’s future,” Gong-Gershowitz said. 

Pritzker said he also wants to increase funding for higher education. He proposed raising Illinois’ investment in Monetary Award Program grants — which help Illinois residents with financial need attend approved Illinois colleges — by $100 million. 

“After years of decline, we’re seeing growth across higher education in Illinois that’s well above the national average,” he said. “This is our moment to take it all to the next level.”

Beyond education, Pritzker also highlighted his plan to streamline behavioral and mental health care. 

Pritzker denounced the “confusing and overlapping multiple-agency bureaucracy” that Illinois residents currently have to navigate to access behavioral care. He said he would like to create a centralized care portal with resource referral tools to simplify the system.

“The FY24 budget invests $10 million to create our first care portal and resource referral tools for families seeking care,” he said. “They can learn about the resources available to them and be matched with what meets their needs best, all in one place.” 

After Pritzker’s speech, State Sen. Laura Fine (D-Glenview) released a statement saying she felt encouraged by Pritzker’s proposed budget. 

The budget also includes a $200 million increase in funding for services for residents with developmental disabilities, which Fine praised. 

“As the chair of the Behavioral and Mental Health committee, improving the quality of life for our most vulnerable residents is a top priority,” Fine said. “I am dedicated to investing in the facilities and programs in our state to reach that goal for both residents and staff.”

Lawmakers will vote on Pritzker’s proposed budget May 19.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @LilyOgburn

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