Released July 1, 2022
Due to Illinois’ long-term, structural fiscal challenges, citizens of Illinois have grown accustomed to General Fund budgets that are focused on cutting, or limiting the cuts to, core services. Which is truly unfortunate, given that 95 percent of all General Fund expenditures on services go to the four core areas of Education, Healthcare, Human Services, and Public Safety. However this past April, the Illinois General assembly passed a General Fund budget for FY 2023 (the “FY 2023 Enacted GF Budget”) that was notably different from the vast majority of budgets passed into law over the last twenty-some odd years. That is because, rather than focus on cuts, the FY 2023 Enacted GF Budget calls for increasing year-to-year spending in every one of those four core service areas. This counters a trend of imposing real, inflation-adjusted cuts to all or most core services that goes all the way back to FY 2000. Moreover, the FY 2023 Enacted GF Budget—when considered in combination with the supplemental appropriations that were passed covering certain aspects of the FY 2022 Enacted General Fund Budget (the “FY 2022 Enacted GF Budget”)—includes a commitment to being fiscally responsible that is far more substantive than rhetorical. This also stands in stark contrast to most General Fund budgets enacted over the last two decades, which on the whole paid lip-service to being responsible—without implementing initiatives that strengthened Illinois’ fiscal system in any meaningful way.
Read the full report to learn more about the initiatives taken to offset economic challenges and decades of service cuts for Illinois.
Released March 29, 2022
The FY 2023 Proposed General Fund Budget (the “FY 2023 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. The FY 2023 GF Budget Proposal is a change of pace, reversing the trend of disinvesting in General Fund services by increasing spending for every single General Fund service category and making moves to get Illinois’ fiscal house in order.
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 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 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 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.