Analysis of Illinois's FY 2024 Proposed General Fund Budget
May 2, 2023
On February 15, 2023, Governor Pritzker delivered the first budget address of his second term to the 103rd General Assembly. This budget address was markedly different than any previous one delivered by Pritzker—or any other Illinois governor dating back to Jim Edgar in the mid-1990s. The reason: Illinois’ General Fund is in the healthiest fiscal condition it has been for decades.
Things have definitely changed since Governor Pritzker was first sworn into office in 2019. Back then, he inherited an $8 billion backlog of unpaid bills from Governor Rauner’s Administration. A budget hole of that size meant roughly 30 percent of all General Fund expenditures during Rauner’s final year as governor constituted deficit spending. Unfortunately, that was also nothing new, as Illinois had failed to produce anything close to a balanced budget in its General Fund for well over two decades prior.
Yes, over the past few years Illinois received significant pandemic-related financial support from the feds, totaling some $8.4 billion, that shored up the General Fund during the pandemic. The state also realized around $4.9 billion in unexpected revenue growth last fiscal year.
Still, the Pritzker Administration did not cave into political pressure to use either the one-time federal aid, or the unexpected, one-time bump in revenue, to fund a Christmas tree full of goodies. Instead, Pritzker’s Administration leveraged this fiscal largesse to help pay down the state’s bill backlog, pre-pay $700 million in pension debt, deposit over $4 billion into the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, and invest close to $2 billion in Illinois’ Rainy Day Fund, so that it now sits at a historically high level—after being reduced to zero by Governor Rauner.