CHAMPAIGN – State Treasurer Mike Frerichs says Illinois is balancing its budget, even without a graduated state income tax that voters rejected last year. And he says the governor and legislators have to continue doing so.
Frerichs, a Democrat, made his remarks Tuesday, during a visit to the Champaign Farmers’ Market, held every Tuesday in downtown Champaign. Frerichs was there to encourage small non-profit groups to apply a grant program his office runs to fund food, housing, workforce and economic programs.
Frerichs On The State Budget
Speaking to reporters, Frerichs credited Governor J.B. Pritzker and the General Assembly with creating a 2022 budget that lives within the state’s means and pays down its debts. Two credit rating agencies, Moody’s and S&P Global Ratings, have raised their ratings for Illinois by a notch, although those raitings still remain the lowest among U.S. states.
Frerichs called on Illinois’ leaders to continue their efforts in future budgets.
“I think that the General Assembly and the governor continue to work together, to live within their means, to take care of our needs here in this state, but to also pay down our debts, I think we continue to see bond rating upgrades,” said Frerichs.
Frerichs says more can be done to strengthen state government’s fiscal health, but it will have to be done without a graduated state income tax, which Illinois voters rejected in a state constitutional amendment referendum in the November 2020 election.
“I think the voters had a chance to weigh in,” said Frerichs. “They weighed in. I think it’s now the job of the General Assembly and the governor to make sure they’re passing balanced budgets, that they’re paying down our deficits, and keeping Illinois on a path of financial security.”
Frerichs sidestepped a question about the role of federal stimulus funding in shoring up the state budget. He also said a tax on retirement income is not needed, and downplayed a suggestion he made last year about how it would be politically easier to enact taxes on retirement income, if voters approved a graduated state income tax.
“I think, comments I made were taken out of context,” said Frerichs, who adds that he has not decided yet if he will seek a third term as state treasurer in 2022. “I think the General Assembly needs to focus on passing balanced budgets. I don’t think we need to tax retirement income.”
Frerichs On Charitable Trust Grants
Frerichs’ main topic during his Champaign visit was the application period, going on now through September 30, for grants to small non-profits from the treasurer’s Charitable Trust Stabilization Fund.
A total of $200,000 is available in the current grant cycle, to fund grants to recipients of up to $20,000 to help non-profits provide food, shelter and job skills. The grants are funded by the filing fees non-profits pay when they incorporate in Illinois.
Frerichs said that despite the small size of both the grants and the non-profit organizations involved, the money awarded from the Charitable Trust Stabilization Fund can go a long way.
“When you leverage this money from the state, with the money (non-profits are) able to raise through their own private networks, and the volunteers, we have a much greater impact than doing it ourselves.”
Two grant recipients were present at the Champaign Farmers’ Market on Tuesday.
One was Sola Gratia Farm, a 16-acre vegetable farm run by St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Urbana. Sola Gratia was selling produce at the Champaign Farmers’ Market on Tuesday.
Director Traci Barkley says their Charitable Trust Stabilization Fund grant allowed them to hire a full-time employee to concentrate on outreach programs.
“And by having a full-time person in place, it’s allowed for us to have more sustainable programs, partner more effectively, and reach more people with our produce and education programs,” said Barkley.
The Land Connection, which runs the Champaign Farmers’ Market, is another Charitable Trust grant recipient.
Executive director Jacquelyn Evers says the Land Connection used a Charitable Trust grant — the second time they had used the grant program — to pay for “Kids’ Kits,” a meal kit program the organization created to teach children about healthy food options.
Evers says the Charitable Trust grants have helped the Land Connection deal with unexpected expenses that are difficult to cover.
“Charitable Trust has been wonderful to work with because they allow us to flex around those needs and they’re great, great people to work with,” said Evers. “They offer a significant amount of funding towards our programs and they benefit the causes that our community needs funding towards right now like food insecurity and nutritious eating.”
Non-profits with annual budgets of a million dollars or less are invited to apply for the latest cycle of Charitable Trust grants with the state treasurer’s office through September 30. Applications can be made at the program’s website, ilcharitabletrust.com, or by calling 217-836-4590.