In his first address before a full joint session of the General Assembly since before the pandemic, Gov. J.B. Pritzker presented his State of the State and budget address Wednesday.
Included was a $49.6 billion budget, an increase in spending by over $3 billion from last year’s budget.
Pritzker is proposing spending $250 million to provide free pre-kindergarten for all the state’s 3-and-4-year-olds.
“The long term investment that has the greatest return for taxpayers with the most positive social and economic impact that I have ever come to you with,” said Pritzker. “It’s called Smart Start Illinois, and it will make our state the best place in the nation to raise young children.”
Pritzker says research shows that over time, taxpayers would save $7 for every $1 invested in expanded pre-K programs.
The governor hinted at his preschool funding plans in January during his inaugural address, when he vowed to make preschool available to every family throughout the state and eliminate child care deserts.
The budget also includes $100 million to build facilities to house the expanded programs.
About ten states offer universal preschool, including Wisconsin and Maryland.
The governor also wants to prioritize taxpayer spending for higher education, including into the Monetary Award Program, or MAP.
“We can make history,” said Pritzker. “Together with Pell Grants, virtually everyone at or below median income in Illinois can go to community college tuition free.”
The budget presented by Pritzker will cover the 2024 fiscal year, which begins July 1.