(The Center Square) – The largest spending plan in Illinois state history is now in effect, but critics say the election-year budget is fanciful, pulled by federal funds and a missed opportunity to right the fiscal ship of the state.
Signing the budget on Tuesday, Governor JB Pritzker looked back on previous years of fiscal mismanagement and said he had turned things around to deliver the “strongest fiscal position in generations.”
“Investments in stronger schools, modernized airports and newly paved highways, hundreds of thousands of well-paying infrastructure jobs, a better-funded retirement system,” Pritzker said Tuesday at a signing ceremony. in Chicago.
Republican gubernatorial candidates have criticized the budget.
Auroral Mayor Richard Irvin said he was packing in gimmicks for the election year and increasing spending, making room for future tax increases.
Jesse Sullivan said there was no spending reform even after the state received billions of dollars in one-time funds from federal taxpayers.
“It’s such a missed opportunity,” Sullivan told WMAY. “We could have actually done structural reform in the state of Illinois. Instead, we just threw the box on the road.
Pritzker said the spending plan called for $1 billion for the state’s depleted rainy-day fund and another half billion for pensions.
“The only members of the General Assembly who voted to kick the street to stick you and your kids with the bill were the Republicans who voted against it,” Pritzker said. “Who seemed to prefer caving to misery rather than offering real solutions.”
Republican state Sen. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, said state finances are being fueled by one-time federal tax dollars that aren’t expected in the coming years.
“The fact is, this budget is setting us up for financial disaster down the road, and anyone who claims it is fiscally responsible is dishonest to the people of Illinois,” Bryant said.
Politics aside, Adam Schuster of the Illinois Policy Institute said the budget does nothing to make structural reforms like changing the state pension system, which he says takes about a quarter of every tax dollar that the state brings in. .
“He didn’t do anything to really reform the pension system,” Schuster said. “So throwing more money into a debt black hole is not the way to solve Illinois’ pension crisis.”
The state’s unfunded pension debt is about $140 billion. That’s tens of billions more when you consider the state’s responsibility to fully subsidize Tier I state retiree health benefits.
Schuster notes that the billions of dollars Illinois has received from federal taxpayers will soon dry up and structural imbalances in the state will resurface.
Pritzker’s office released a summary of some of the expenses. This includes hundreds of millions of dollars in US Federal Rescue Plan Act funds for various sectors, including:
- $380 million in pandemic support payments to healthcare providers, including
- $150 million for affordable housing programs through the Illinois Housing Development Authority
- $75 million for a hotel jobs recovery program
- $50 million for restaurant employment and stabilization grant program
- $50 million for arts-related grants, such as venue operators, performing or presenting arts organizations, arts education organizations, and museums or cultural heritage
- $15 million for tourist attraction development grants
The fiscal year begins on July 1.