Yesterday Governor Pritzker warned that unless a federal bailout came along Illinois would have to make major budget cuts. To those of us who have been advocating for fiscal responsibility for years at the statehouse, this comes as no surprise. This is what happens when you pass budgets that are out of balance by billions of dollars.
Just as a refresher – in May – in the middle of a global pandemic – Illinois Democrats passed the largest budget in state history. Yes – while revenue projections were way down, businesses closed, and unemployment sky rocketing, Illinois passed the largest budget in state history. It spent 7.5% more than the budget last year, relied on $5 billion in federal borrowing and is out of balance by almost $6 billion.
While millions of Illinoisans tightened their belts, dipped into savings accounts, or relied on much lower paychecks or scarce unemployment checks (if they could get them), Illinois Democrats increased the deficit by billions and promised spending they knew taxpayers couldn’t afford.
The fiscal reality of Illinois is not pretty. And the situation is never going to be resolved unless politicians are truly honest about our finances. The Governor, in his press conference, asked for agencies to find 5% cuts to implement. This shouldn’t be a difficult task for these agencies considering that last year the Governor asked his agencies to identify 5% cuts which were never acted on. However, 5% cuts from state agencies does little to slow the appetite for spending in state government and does not get us on the road to fiscal discipline.
A quick press conference calling for cuts unless we get a federal bailout is the wrong approach – especially coming from the party that pushed for this irresponsible budget in the first place. No quick fix will suffice. It requires a complete attitude shift. I’ve been pushing for this shift toward fiscal discipline for years. I’m ready for it – it’s time for the majority party to get on board.
State Rep. Avery Bourne