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. 

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.

Illinois’ Two-Decade Disinvestment in Higher Education

Release: October 21, 2019

For two decades, Higher Education in Illinois has been cast aside. Despite the evidence and  relationship between educational attainment and economic viability, Higher Education in Illinois continues to be divested.

Since 2000, General Fund appropriation for Higher Education in Illinois has been less than it was in FY2000. While FY2020 appropriations are more than FY2019, they are still not enough to make Higher Education affordable for many students in Illinois. This means that public universities and community colleges must rely more heavily on tuition and fees. In fact, average in-state tuition at an Illinois four-year public university has increased 136.3 percent from FY2000 to FY2017.

As a result, with General Fund appropriations being less than two decades ago and tuition costs increasing, Higher Education has seen an overall decline in enrollment. This negates Illinois’ plan to create a “well-educated workforce with skills and competencies to compete in the modern economy” as intended by The Illinois Public Agenda for College and Career Success. Hardest hit by the disinvestment in Higher Education are students in Black and Latino households.

In Illinois’ Two-Decade Disinvestment in Higher Education, CTBA analyzes everything from economic impacts of higher educations, General Fund appropriation impacts on Higher Education in Illinois, the reliability of public institutions on tuition and fees, which disproportionately affects low-income students and students of color, and how the growing cost of college has contributed to a decrease in enrollment in our public colleges and universities. 

Impact on Illinois' Structural Deficit

Release: October 21, 2019

The state of Illinois faces a significant structural deficit into the future. The report highlights the nature of the structural deficit and identifies two key causes: the state’s historically flawed  tax policy and the plan devised for repayment of Illinois’ pension debt. CTBA proposes both the adoption of the Fair Tax and a reamortization of the pension debt as described in the report titled: Addressing Illinois’ Pension Debt Crisis With Reamortization. Doing so would allow the State to ensure full funding for the Evidence Based Funding Formula while also improving the status of Illinois’ public employee pension system and eliminating the State’s structural deficit by 2042.

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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