11 Mar Quinn’s Budget Shows How Bad Fiscal Picture Is

March 11, 2010

By: Rockford Register Star
Source: Rockford Register Star

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget address Wednesday made the state’s financial picture look every bit as bad as we thought it was. He said the state’s budget situation is a “crisis of epic proportion.”

His proposed solutions, however, do not inspire confidence. He calls for $2 billion in cuts, mostly from education. He calls for an increase in the income tax, but did not include it in his budget. He wants to borrow on top of borrowing. He wants to add to the pile of unpaid bills.

The numbers reaffirm the state’s woes.

$13 billion: The state’s budget deficit. This seems to be a moving target. Two weeks ago it was reported as $11.5 billion. Even at the smaller number, that’s a huge hole.

$4.7 billion: The amount Quinn wants to borrow so bills don’t pile up so badly. The state borrowed $2.25 billion in May and August and that didn’t help reduce the bill backlog. State Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, said the increased borrowing takes Illinois from $6 billion in short-term debt to more than $11 billion — the largest amount of debt per capita in the nation. GOP governor candidate Bill Brady criticized the borrowing because the state has no plan to pay the debt.

$6 billion: What the comptroller’s office expects the state’s bill backlog to be at the end of the fiscal year, June 30, despite the previous borrowing.

6 months: The time some vendors have had to wait to be reimbursed for services provided on the state’s behalf.

3 percent: Illinois’ individual income tax rate, the lowest of states that levy an income tax. Seven states don’t levy an income tax: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming. New Hampshire and Tennessee limit their state income taxes to dividends and interest income only.

4 percent: The rate Quinn proposes for the income tax rate. That’s a 33 percent increase, but it’s smaller than the 50 percent increase — to 4.5 percent — that the governor proposed last year. Quinn hopes lawmakers will approve the smaller increase despite this being an election year.

5 percent: The Civic Federation’s Institute for Illinois’ Fiscal Sustainability’s recommended tax rate. The Responsible Budget Coalition, which is made up of more than 200 organizations, doesn’t think the governor’s proposal raises taxes enough.

$2.8 billion: The amount the tax increase will generate. Quinn wants the money to go toward education.

$1.3 billion: Budget cut for education. School districts across the state already have la id off teachers and cut programs to reduce costs. Further cuts in the state budget would force school districts to go to voters and ask for property tax increases. Pick your poison.

$2.5 million: The amount the state owes the Harlem School District as of Feb. 28. The Harlem School Board is looking to make $3.3 million in cuts including eliminating 58 paraprofessional positions and replacing them with 18 certified special educators. The state owes the Rockford School District $9.6 million. The state owes just about everyone money.

$276 million: The amount services such as home care for older adults, child care and community mental health services will be reduced. Where will those people go for help?

$62.4 billion: Pension liability, according to Auditor General William Holland. Illinois is dead last among the 50 states in unfunded pension liability, according to a study by the Pew Center on the States. There is ongoing debate in Springfield about instituting a two-tier pension system with fewer benefits for new employees. That won’t help the state’s short-term financial picture, but it will be important in years to come.

May 31: The day the General Assembly is supposed to end the spring session. There’s no telling at this point what will or won’t be approved.

Nov. 2: Election Day. Quinn’s political future is at stake in this budget. Drastic cuts and tax increases do not normally translate into votes. Brady proposes 10 percent across-the-board cuts and opposes any tax increase.

12.9 million: The number of Illinois residents. You can look at the 2011 budget plan at budget.illinois.gov.

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