The spring legislative session rolls on with plenty of attention paid to the state’s ongoing budget crisis while a detailed assessment of the state’s economy also made news, according to State Sen. Dave Syverson (R-Rockford). Attention was also focused this week on the issue of human trafficking, which victimizes thousands of Illinois residents.
Fixing the Fiscal House
Senator Syverson said getting the state’s fiscal house in order, including solving the current fiscal crisis is a foundational step to restoring confidence in government and renewing the state’s promise as an economic leader among states.
Over the last four years, state government collected about $30 billion in new state revenue from the 2011 lame-duck state income tax rate hike. Today, Sen. Syverson said the reality of “living-within-your-means” is beginning to hit home.
Until this year, Illinois has been under one-party rule for 12 years. The decision to over-spend and grow the size of government rests with the majority leaders. The cleanup is another matter. Gov. Rauner was handed a state budget that was out of money on his first day in office.
Not surprisingly, the Democrat majority have used recent budget hearings as an opportunity to highlight the negative impacts of recent spending cuts to balance the state’s current fiscal year budget. The blunt testimony should not be a surprise. Senate Republicans have predicted for years that state government could not continue to increase spending at a pace that was unsustainable.
Earlier this spring, a budget fix was approved to address the $1.6 billion hole in the state’s current year budget. Bipartisan legislative support and leadership from Governor Bruce Rauner brought about Illinois’ first honestly balanced budget in more than a decade. Senator Syverson is hopeful the harsh reality of the crisis will keep the political parties working together to find a solution that is best for all Illinoisans.
Meanwhile, Gov. Rauner’s “working groups” of lawmakers are meeting to discuss ways Illinois can reform government. They are charged with finding ways to eliminate waste, increase efficiency and end the kind of internal corruption, which saw tens of millions of taxpayer dollars squandered on ill-conceived and fruitless programs in recent years.
According to a new consumer/taxpayer report by WalletHub, the online financial website, Illinois ranks in the bottom 10 of states (41st) based on an analysis what taxpayers pay to government compared to the value of what they receive in programs and services.
The Illinois Economy
Another financial assessment to make news comes from the Illinois Policy Institute (IPI), an independent public policy research center. IPI’s report evaluated Illinois’ economy on unemployment, economic opportunity, taxes and business regulations.
Key findings include:
- Illinois is experiencing the worst-in-nation employment recovery since the Great Recession.
- 236,000 fewer Illinoisans working today than when the Great Recession began.
- Illinois is one of the nation’s leading out-migration states.
- The state’s over-regulated and uncompetitive business climate has triggered a shortage of work opportunities.
- Illinois has the nation’s most severe pension crisis. State government’s public pension debt tops $111 billion. Local governments face a similar pension debt problem.
- Illinois has the highest average property taxes of any state.
- State-mandated work rules raise the cost of hiring and shrink employment opportunities.
Senator Syverson said in the 1990’s, Illinois was among the leading states for business expansion and job growth and it’s essential that after 12 years of failed policies, Gov. Rauner’s ideas to revive Illinois’s economy, lower the burden of taxes and regulations, make government more efficient and responsive be given a chance. Other states, such as neighboring Indiana, have made similar changes with success.
Senator Syverson supports restoration of $26 million “Good Friday Cuts”
Senator Syverson says Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner took the right action at the right time by restoring $26 million in funding to programs including Autism, Alzheimer’s and Epilepsy support. The move comes after sales tax revenue preliminary projections show an additional $300 to $500 million coming in to state coffers.
“I am grateful that Governor Rauner has seen the importance of these programs, especially how they positively affect residents in Northern Illinois,” said State Sen. Dave Syverson (R-Rockford). “Governor Rauner has stood by his commitment to balance our state’s budget while maintaining core government services.”
Governor Rauner’s office had previously announced the $26 million in program cuts. Lawmakers and the Governor had passed legislation to patch the state budget with the goal of sparing the programs. Unfortunately, many agencies had already burned through their funding, meaning the further cuts were still necessary at that time.
Then Senator Syverson joined with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass additional legislation to free up enough money to restore the $26 million, but to date House Speaker Mike Madigan has blocked the proposal from passing the House.
“It is unfortunate that it looks like politics had something to do with the delaying of the restoration of funds to these very important programs,” said Senator Syverson. “I am grateful Governor Rauner was able to take Executive Action to restore the funding for these programs.”
According to Senator Syverson, due to Illinois’ current backlog of bills, and uncertainty over whether the increase in revenue will continue, the Governor won’t be able to restore any other additional cuts.