Illinois General Fund Spending in FY2016: How Elected Officials Cut Billions in Core Service Expenditures While Worsening the Deficit—All Without Casting a Vote


October 27, 2016

Illinois’ fiscal year (FY) 2016 ended without a comprehensive, annual, General Fund budget being passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Bruce Rauner. Instead, crucial services were funded—or not—through a hodgepodge of court authorizations and a series of partial appropriations. The normal budgeting process, in which legislators and the Governor publicly weigh priorities and make decisions to which they can be held accountable, for the most part did not occur. As a result, many significant cuts were made to core services like Health Care, Public Safety, and Human Services, without either a vote by the General Assembly, or a gubernatorial proposal or veto to do so. The public, as a result, was denied the type of transparency and accountability that should form an integral part of the budgeting process.

Indeed, the following cuts from FY2015 spending levels were made in FY2016, which no elected official had to go on record as supporting:

  • A $467 million, or 27.3 percent, year-to-year cut to Public Safety;
  • A $508 million, or 10.2 percent, year-to-year cut to Human Services.

When those cuts are added to the $1.318 billion, or 67.9 percent, year-to-year cut to Higher Education the General Assembly passed and the Governor signed into law, spending on essential current services in FY2016 was down by $2.911 billion, or 12.7 percent, from FY2015.

Of the $21.484 billion in FY2016 General Fund spending on current services, only $7.121 billion—or one-third—was authorized through the standard public budgeting process, which requires both the General Assembly to vote on the appropriations in question, and the Governor to then sign those appropriations into law. That means fully two-thirds of the FY2016 General fund spending on current services was neither transparent to the public, nor made in a manner that permits the public to hold state elected officials accountable.

Predictably, this lack of transparency and accountability in the budget process did not lead to an improvement in the state’s fiscal condition. Indeed, by the end of FY2016, the accumulated General Fund deficit had reached $9.41 billion, an increase of $3.44 billion from the final FY2015 deficit of $5.97 billion.

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Topics:Tax and Budget, Illinois Budget