Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Illinois Plan to Fix Its Budget Woes: Deny Reality

The best thing Illinois Governor Pat Quinn had to say in his State of the State address on February 1 was that the legislature needs to face its “rendezvous with reality.” Under a newly enacted state law the budget process must now begin with estimated revenues rather than just a list of “needs and wants” and then craft a budget around that number.

It took considerable jockeying just to come up with that number, but as Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno noted, the $33.7 billion estimated revenue number is “not a cap,” but merely a good first step: “Unfortunately, adopting the revenue number may be the easiest part of this whole process. It’s going to be difficult to come to a consensus on the spending number.”

Under Illinois law the state government must balance its budget every year, and every year it has succeeded, mostly by stiffing its suppliers and borrowing to make its pension plan payments. Currently the state owes its 166,000 vendors approximately $9 billion, but plans to make its pension plan payment of $5.2 billion without having to borrow this time. Read More