National Study Hammers Illinois Budget Practices

Jan 23, 2018
Originally published on January 23, 2018 12:13 pm

A national study of state government budgeting gives Illinois low marks.  

It's no surprise to see Illinois fare poorly when it comes to finances.  A two year budget impasse created even more problems:

"It's hard to gauge the success of the budget in Illinois when you didn't have one," said Bill Glasgall with the non-partisan Volcker Alliance, which conducted the analysis titled "Truth And Integrity In State Budgeting: What is The Reality?"

The Alliance graded the states in categories like budget maneuvers, forecasting, reserve funds and more.  Each state was given a grade, with D-minus the lowest.  

Among all states, Illinois' was near the bottom for how it puts budgets together and deals with what it owes.   Glasgall said during the impasse,  Illinois continued to spend more money than it was taking in...

"The state whipped out its credit card and put 16-billion dollars on account.  That to me is a sign of, if not fiscal distress, darn close to it."

The state passed a budget and an income tax increase last summer.  But Glasgall points out more revenue will likely be necessary going forward. 

The survey of all 50 states found some are better than others when it comes to budget forecasting, putting money aside and paying down long term debts like public pensions.  But Illinois was among the worst states overall in most categories. 

Glasgall is especially critical of how Illinois handles what are called legacy costs like state employee health care and pensions.

"Basically services the state consumed, but didn't pay for and either put it on a credit card or just pushed the expenditure off," he said.

Illinois has among the most underfunded pension system in the country. 

When it comes to recommendations, Glasgall said Illinois needs to stick to paying bills in the year they come due.  He said the state could also raise money by broadening its sales tax base and reviewing tax incentives to make sure they are working as intended. 

Glasgall said the report did find one bright spot.  He said Illinois does pretty well when it comes to transparency, earning a C grade.  He says at least the state shows how bad things are. 


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