Illinois Budget: An Opion From State Rep. Keith Wheeler

For too long, Springfield politicians have been stuck in the past. They think the pressing issues of our day — large budget deficits, unfunded public pensions, and dangerously high out-migration — are similar to the ones Illinois has faced in eras past.

Have a problem? Look to the glory days of state government, they say. Just cut a little spending here and there, do a massive tax hike, and another short-term pension fix to top it off. Just remember to keep the overall system intact. They swear it’ll do the trick for a few years, maybe even a decade.

Current and former elected officials may deny it, but the old ways of doing business have been anything but glorious for the people of Illinois. For the past 15 years, state government has been operating with budgets in structural deficit. That’s 15 years of complete and total failure. Fifteen years of the General Assembly failing to meet its most basic constitutional obligation — to pass a balanced budget for the governor to sign into law. Read the rest of the editorial in SJ-R.

Want an Illinois budget? Adopt a revenue estimate. K-12 schools and state universities need a state budget. Social service providers need a state budget. The most vulnerable individuals and families across Illinois need a state budget.

State government in Illinois is financially adrift because the General Assembly hasn’t stepped up to lead and make the tough decisions to work through a budget. By law we are required to begin by adopting a revenue estimate. I have filed legislation to do just that.

Why is it so important that we adopt a revenue estimate? There are three reasons:

The revenue estimate is the actual first step in our budgeting process. How do we know how much each appropriations committee has to allocate for their assigned departments and agencies if we don’t start with the Revenue Estimate?

The revenue estimate is required by state law and the Illinois Constitution. Just look it up. We have to do it. If we appropriate funds without a revenue estimate, we are, in effect, breaking the law.

The revenue estimate is an important form of taxpayer protection. If we skip the revenue estimate and just appropriate according to our wishes and the requests of the departments and agencies of state government, we will likely spend too much, which will trigger a tax increase.

Read the remainder of an opinion piece by Rep. Keith Wheeler.

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