Reports

Illinois FY 2021 Enacted General Fund Budget Analysis

Release: August 19, 2020

If the Illinois FY 2021 Enacted General Fund Budget proves anything, it is that no matter how much things change in the world at large, the structural revenue problems in the state’s budget remain the same. Consider that, not even accounting for the impact of COVID-19, Illinois would nonetheless still have a General Fund deficit—meaning the state would not have had enough current revenue to cover some spending on public services this year—even if the pandemic never happened.

Despite the poor performance of the state’s revenue system over time, many commentators and editorial boards still try to blame the state’s historic, recurring deficit problems on overspending for services. The data, however, have simply never supported that canard, which is explained at length in this Report. The long-term structural deficit in Illinois’ General Fund—which will certainly become worse over the next few years as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy is projected to drive revenue down significantly in all 50 states—is a real cause for concern.

A structural deficit like the one in Illinois’ General Fund, which is demonstrably driven by an underperforming revenue system, cannot be eliminated without raising taxes. In fact, Governor Pritzker has worked with the General Assembly to pass a tax reform package—known as the “Fair Tax”—predicated on replacing the flat rate individual income tax Illinois currently imposes with a graduated rate income tax. Recognizing the difficult political battle that will be waged over the Fair Tax, Governor Pritzker introduced two different General Fund budget proposals for FY 2021. But all of that happened before COVID-19 devasted the economy and drove down tax revenue in all 50 states, including Illinois. 

So, as expected, the economic downturn created by the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly worsened the state’s fiscal condition. That said, the analysis in this Report makes it clear that, even if the coronavirus had never happened, the fiscal shortcomings that plague Illinois’ General Fund are long-term, material, and structural, and cannot be resolved without comprehensively reforming the state’s tax policy. 

Setting the Record Straight on Illinois’ Fiscal Shortcomings

Release: May 5, 2020

This report shows how the data make it quite clear that: Illinois incurred pension debt—under both Republicans and Democrats-- to mask its fiscal problems, not to pay irresponsibly high benefits; Illinois is not a high spending state, and in fact has cut spending on services in real terms by more than 23% since FY2000; that over $9 out of every $10 Illinois, and frankly every other state in America, spends on services goes to the four core areas of Education (including Pre-K, K-12, and Higher Ed), Healthcare, Human Services and Public Safety—meaning those are the services which are imperiled if the feds don’t come through with a significant relief package for state governments suffering revenue loss from the downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic; and the Pritzker Administration has actually pushed a number of fiscal initiatives that are actually responsible and counter some of the poor practices of the past.

Analysis of Illinois’ FY2020 Enacted General Fund Budget

Release: October 31, 2019

In his first year in office, Governor J. B. Pritzker signed a General Fund budget that the General Assembly passed into law — something it took his predecessor four years to accomplish. And while both the General Fund budget for fiscal year (“FY”) 2020 and the Governor are new, the fiscal problems which continue to afflict the General Fund are not. In fact, these problems are both longstanding and structural.

Asset transfers to the state pension systems: Six questions to be answered

Release: February 18, 2019

One idea that has been proposed by a number of observers to repay some of Illinois’ pension debt is an “asset transfer.” Under this proposal, the state (or the City of Chicago, which is also facing a large pension debt problem) would make a contribution to the pension systems in the form of a publicly owned property, such as a tollway or lottery, rather than in the form of cash.

Governor Rauner's FY2019 General Fund Budget Proposal Neither Balances Nor Addresses Long-Term Structural Fiscal Issues

Release: May 24, 2018

Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 marks the fourth General Fund Budget proposed by Governor Bruce Rauner. For the first two years of Governor Rauner’s administration, FY2016 and FY2017, the state went without a full General Fund Budget. That gave Illinois the dubious honor of going the longest that any state in the country had ever gone without a budget.  This budget impasse led to an explosion in the state’s deficit under Governor Rauner’s watch. The state’s backlog of bills was $5.97 billion on July 1, 2015, when the impasse began.

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