Why a "balanced" Illinois budget won’t actually be balanced

Feb 18, 2016

Guest View

Creating a balanced Illinois budget doesn’t mean what you think it does

In his budget address yesterday, Gov. Rauner for called for a balanced budget. However, this does not mean the same thing in government as it does in the real world.

Let’s take a look at how Gov. Rauner and the legislature “balanced” the 2015 budget, without raising taxes or cutting benefits and services.

In essence they balanced the budget by shifting money from one pocket to another—specifically moving money from non-budgeted funds to budgeted funds.

Illinois’ budget law calls for only six funds, like the general and education funds, to be balanced. The other hundreds of funds are maintained off budget, except when the legislatures and governors need money to “balance” the other funds. Then the cash balances in the non-budgeted funds become fair game for misappropriation to the budgeted funds to pretend the budgeted funds are “balanced.”

Right before he left office, former Gov. Pat Quinn and the legislature approved the fiscal year 2015 budget which was balanced assuming the temporary tax hike would be made permanent. Since the hike was not continued, Gov. Rauner came into office in January 2015 needing to figure out a way to balance the budget before the June 30, 2015 fiscal-year end.

He and lawmakers shifted money from more than 100 non-budgeted funds to the six budgeted funds. Some of the non-budgeted funds include the Motor Fuel Tax Fund, Fire Prevention Fund, Downstate Transit Improvement Fund and Wireless Service Emergency Fund.

This affects ordinary citizens, because they paid taxes and fees assuming the money would go to one purpose and the governor and legislature took that money and used it for other purposes. Some would consider this “bait and switch,” or worse.

For example, on each mobile phone bill is a charge for “Illinois State 911 Fee,” which is supposed to be used to promote the use of wireless 9-1-1 and wireless enhanced 9-1-1 (E9-1-1) service in order to save lives and protect the property of the citizens of the State of Illinois. The governor and legislature balanced the 2015 budget by taking this money and using it for whatever they wanted.

So, when you hear Gov. Rauner, or any other politician in Illinois, claim they have or will “balance” the budget, just remember decades of “balanced” budgets have resulted in the state being in a financial hole of $184 billion.

NEXT ARTICLE: Illinois is about to become the land of the lost 2016 budget year


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