Illinois Budget

Released July 22, 2021

Shortly after the FY 2022 General Fund budget proposal in February 2021, the sobering economic forecast significantly changed. On March 11, 2021, President Joe Biden secured passage of the American Rescue Plan Act (“ARPA”). ARPA came on the heels of various other federal relief initiatives that passed in 2020—most notably the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”). When considered together, nearly $12 billion in federal relief funding has been designated to cover state-level spending on core public services in Illinois over fiscal years 2021, 2022, 2023, and 2024.

Yet, despite obtaining the new federal and state funding, the FY 2022 Enacted General Fund Budget that passed into law (“P.A. 102-0017”) increases overall net spending on core services in FY 2022 by just $586 million over FY 2021 levels, in nominal, non-inflation-adjusted dollars. That is notable for one simple reason: the total year-to-year increase in General Fund spending is less in nominal dollars than the $655 million in new recurring revenue the state raised by eliminating the tax expenditures—and is significantly less than the $3.8 billion in federal relief funding the state utilized in FY 2022. Indeed, after adjusting for inflation, total net General Fund spending on services in FY 2022 is scheduled to be only $24 million—or 0.1 percent—more in real terms than it was in FY 2021. 

Released May 13, 2021

To address some of the shortcomings that have created the structural deficit in the state’s fiscal system, the FY 2022 GF Proposal includes a number of initiatives designed to generate new revenue for the General Fund.  Key among these are initiatives that would:

(i) eliminate or modify a number of tax breaks—which are more accurately described as “tax expenditures”—the state currently grants to corporations, to generate some $932 million in General Fund revenue for FY 2022; and

(ii) “decouple” Illinois from tax expenditures granted to businesses by the federal government, that cannot be expected to generate any benefit in the state, but would cause the loss of anywhere from $500 million to $1 billion in annual General Fund Revenue.

Released March 16, 2021

In the FY 2022 General Fund budget proposal the Governor announced in February, K-12 funding under the Evidence-Based Funding formula (EBF) is once again held level with FY 2020, in nominal, non-inflation adjusted dollars. While that is certainly better than being cut from FY 2020 levels in nominal dollars, it represents a step backward. By not providing additional new funding for the EBF, the state is extending the time it would take to fully fund the EBF by two years – if the state continues to put in a minimum of $300 million yearly beginning in FY 2023. That two year extension would mean extending the timeline to more than four times longer than what is required by statute. 

This update is the third installment in the Fully Funding the EBF Series.

Released March 10, 2021

The FY 2022 Proposed General Fund Budget (the “FY 2022 GF Proposal”) makes one fact abundantly clear: spending on services is not driving the state’s fiscal problems.  Big picture, Illinois’ ongoing disinvestment in General Fund services is harming communities across the state for one simple reason: over 95 percent of all such spending goes to the four, core areas of Education (including Early Childhood, K-12, and Higher Education), Healthcare, Human Services, and Public Safety.

Released February 16, 2021

Without new revenue available from the proposed Fair Tax, short-term borrowing, Federal Aid, and cutting some expenditures has allowed Illinois to hold on during the current fiscal year. But this is a short-term solution, and not a sustainable solution in tackling the long-term fiscal woes of Illinois. In our new short report, “Increasing the Income Tax Rate: One Method for Addressing Illinois’ Long-term Fiscal Problems” CTBA analyzes potential benefits of increasing the income tax rate, while ensuring that any increase in the income tax address the regressivity of a flat rate income tax structure through refundable tax credits.

Released October 1, 2020

On November 3rd, 2020, Illinois voters will have the opportunity to ratify the proposed amendment to the Illinois Constitution that would eliminate the mandate that state income taxes be assessed using only one flat rate.

This is a crucial moment for Illinois since it has historically been, and currently remains, one of the most unfair taxing states in the nation. From a textbook standpoint, an “unfair” tax system is a regressive tax system—that is, one that imposes a greater tax burden on low- and middle-income families than on affluent families, when tax burden is measured as a percentage of income.  It is unfair because such a system fails to allocate tax burden in a manner that correlates with ability to pay, thereby worsening the substantial growth in income inequality that has occurred in the private sector over the last four decades. But building fairness into a state tax system is difficult, given that every tax—or fee for that matter—which is available to fund public services provided at the state or local level is regressive except for one: the income tax.  The income tax is the only tax that can actually be designed to comport with ability to pay and hence create some tax fairness, because it is the only tax that can be designed to assess higher tax rates on higher levels of income, and lower rates on lower levels of income.

Unfortunately, Article IX, Section 3 of the Illinois Constitution mandates that the state income tax be imposed at one flat rate across all levels of income. Hence, Illinois is constitutionally prohibited from utilizing the income tax to play the essential tax policy role of offsetting the natural regressivity of every other tax and fee imposed at either the state or local level. In fact, Illinois’ inability to build some fairness into its tax system through implementation of a graduated rate income tax has played a major role in driving the ongoing deficits in the state’s General Fund, while also hampering private sector economic growth.  The good news is a genuine opportunity for meaningful reform of the Illinois income tax now exists. That is because on June 5, 2019, Governor Pritzker signed Public Act 101-0008 (“P.A. 101-0008”) into law. If implemented, this legislation will create a new, graduated rate income tax structure, frequently referred to as the “Fair Tax” by proponents, to replace the state’s current flat rate income tax.

To learn more about how the Fair Tax not only ties income tax burden to ability to pay, but also raises new revenue in a manner that will effectively help eliminate some of the long-term structural flaws that have consistently made Illinois’ overall tax system one of the most unfair and poorly performing in the nation, please read the new CTBA Report, “Implementing the “Fair Tax” Will Help the Illinois Fiscal System Respond Better to the Modern Economy While Promoting Tax Fairness.”

Released 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. 

Released August 4, 2020

Fully Funding the Evidence-Based Formula: 2020 Update” is an update to the “Fully Funding the Evidence-Based Formula: Four Scenarios” report from 2019. The updated 2020 report highlights three different funding scenarios, identifying for each scenario how long, and how much money would be required to fund an adequate and equitable education as identified by the Evidence-Based Funding Formula. 

Released 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.

Released 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.

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