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An appropriation is the dollar amount of spending targeted at a specific program or service in a given fiscal year. The General Assembly makes annual appropriations subject to the governor's approval, veto, or line-item reduction. The General Assembly may choose to override any of the preceding actions the governor takes.

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Balanced Budget Requirement

Article VIII, Section 2 of the Illinois Constitution requires that the state produce a balanced budget each year. The specific constitutional language provides: “Appropriations for a fiscal year shall not exceed funds estimated by the General Assembly to be available during that year.”

Benefit Year

The period when a given worker’s weekly rate and duration of benefits starts beginning with the day the worker first applies for unemployment insurance (UI). A worker is only entitled to payments for the specified benefit year if he or she goes on UI and is quickly re-employed and laid off again.

Block Grant

Funds that are provided to general purpose governmental units (usually at the state and local level) and can be used for a broad range of programs and services, largely at the recipient’s discretion. Some examples are the Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) block grant and the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG).

Budget Resolution

A brief outline of spending and revenues agreed to by the House and Senate each year. The budget resolution directs the work of a General Assembly or Congress in making more specific spending and taxation decisions later on.

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Carry Forward Deficit

A carry forward deficit is the sum of the state’s bills for items like reimbursements to healthcare providers that are left unpaid from the previous fiscal year.

Cash Grant

Financial supports for those who are unable to produce sufficient income to pay for necessary expenses. Cash grants include Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) checks and Social Security Insurance disability checks. While disability checks are near permanent, TANF checks are intended to be temporary assistance in order to sustain a family that is working toward self-sufficiency.

Categorical Funding

Federal funds provided to states and localities that have narrowly defined purposes and targeted populations. The use of categorical funds is often contrasted against the use of block grant funding.

Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA)

The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability is a bipartisan, joint legislative commission that provides the Illinois General Assembly with information relevant to the Illinois economy, taxes, and other sources of revenue and debt obligations of the state.

Community Services Block Grant (CSBG)

A federal program that gives money to local direct-service providers who offer assistance to low-income individuals, families, or communities. Those funded under the program are known as Community Action Agencies.

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Discretionay Spending

A spending category determined by governments and set forth in an appropriations bill during the process to create a fiscal year budget. This spending is optional and determined through the political process each year, in contrast to entitlement programs for which funding is mandatory.

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Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

A refundable tax credit that supplements the earnings of low- and moderate-income workers. The EITC provides families with an income tax credit, increasing the family's real income. There is both a federal EITC, and Illinois-specific EITC.


Benefits that are guaranteed to individuals who meet a certain set of defined qualifications. A common entitlement program is Medicaid.

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Federal Poverty Level (FPL)

A standard that is used to determine economic need, set by the Federal Department of Health and Human Services. Eligibility for most public benefit programs are tied to percentages of the federal poverty level. For 2013, the FPL for a family of four is $23,550.

Fiscal Year (FY)

A fiscal year is the calender used for determining an annual budget and/or financial statements. Illinois creates its annual budget on a fiscal rather than calendar year basis, with each fiscal year beginning on July 1 of a calendar year and continuing until June 30 of the next calendar year.

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General Assembly

The Illinois General Assembly, made up of a House of Representatives and Senate, is the chief lawmaking body.

General Fund

Government budgets are made up of multiple funds, and the General Fund is usually the largest. The General Fund is a fund category that receives revenue from common taxes and fees, such as income and sales taxes. The revenue the General Fund receives is typically not dedicated to specific spending purposes, although there is some earmarking. Therefore, General Fund spending is largely at the discretion of elected officials during the annual budget process.

Gross Receipts Tax (GRT)

A Gross Receipts Tax is a broad-based, low rate (generally less than 1%) tax imposed on all income received by business without any deductions for costs of doing business, such as a deduction for wages. GRTs are not based on company’s profit or loss for a given tax year; rather, they are owed on all income, regardless of whether or not business profitable.

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Hard Costs

Hard costs are spending items over which the Legislature and Governor have little to no discretionary authority to change, and include items such as debt service on bonds.

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Mandatory Spending

Funding that is not determined on an annual basis, but is rather determined by previously established laws.


An entitlement program for poor and low-income individuals and families who are in need of health coverage. It is jointly funded by both the federal and state government and is the largest source of federal revenue for states.


The federal health insurance program for people who are 65 or older and for certain younger people with disabilities. The program consists of two main parts for hospital and medical insurance (Part A and Part B) and two additional parts that provide flexibility and prescription drugs (Part C and Part D).

Monetary Award Program (MAP)

Provides grant assistance to Illinois residents who are first-time undergraduate students with exceptional financial need.

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Net Deficit

A net deficit is the amount by which total spending exceeds available revenue in a given fiscal year. Total spending includes: (i) all final appropriations for spending on delivery of public services in a fiscal year; (ii) all payment of hard costs in that fiscal year; and (iii) all payments made to cover any carry forward deficit from the previous fiscal year.

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Reconciliation Bill

A reconciliation bill is a single piece of legislation that typically includes multiple provisions (generally developed by several committees) all of which affect the federal budget — whether on the mandatory spending side, the tax side, or both. A reconciliation bill is the only piece of legislation (other than the budget resolution itself) that cannot be filibustered on the Senate floor.

Regressive Taxation

A more salient definition of "regressive taxes” are those that place a heavier burden on low-income earners, by taking a higher portion of their income than they take from wealth, high-income earners. “Regressive taxes” of the second definition are characteristic of structural inequality.

Revenue Earmark

The designation of revenue from a specific source to spending on a specific service. An example of earmarking in Illinois involves the net revenue the state collects from the lottery (after paying winners and administrative/third-party vendor costs) which is primarily earmarked to spending on K-12 education.

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Structural Deficit

A structural deficit occurs when a taxing body's (i.e. state, local government, etc.) revenue scheme, including types of tax, rates, and base (items subject to a particular tax), will not bring in enough money to continue funding current service levels, with changing economic and demographic conditions taken into consideration.

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