Spending on essential core services [Health Care, Public Safety, Human Services, Higher Education…] cut by billions, yet the state's deficit continues to grow:
CHICAGO - The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability (CTBA) released a new report, Illinois General Fund Spending in FY2016: How Elected Officials Cut Billions in Core Service Expenditures While Worsening the Deficit-All Without Casting a Vote,
which provides a detailed analysis of the FY2016 General Fund budget, as of September 30, 2016. Illinois ended FY2016 without a comprehensive, annual, General Fund budget being passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Bruce Rauner. Instead, crucial services were funded-or not-through a hodgepodge of court authorizations and a series of partial appropriations.
"The normal budgeting process, in which legislators and the Governor publicly weigh priorities and make decisions to which they can be held accountable, for the most part just didn't happen," said CTBA Executive Director Ralph Martire.
"As a result, many significant cuts were made to core services like Health Care, Public Safety, and Human Services, without either a vote by the General Assembly, or a gubernatorial proposal or veto. That denied the public the kind of transparency and accountability that's crucial to the budgeting process."
CTBA's analysis found that the state authorized $33.555 billion in FY2016 General Fund expenditures. Of that total, $12.071 billion came through continuing appropriations for "Hard Costs," such as debt service, which was authorized by pre-existing legislation.
However, of the remaining $21.484 billion, only $7.121 billion-or one-third-was authorized through the standard public budgeting process, which requires both the General Assembly to vote on the appropriations in question, and the Governor to then sign those appropriations into law.
That means fully two-thirds of the FY2016 General fund spending on current services was authorized without any elected officials having to take a public position on whether these were the correct funding levels.
CTBA's analysis found that, while the General Assembly passed and the Governor signed into law a $1.318 billion, or 67.9 percent, year-to-year cut to Higher Education in FY2016, no elected official had to go on record as supporting:
In total, spending on essential core services in FY2016 was down by $2.911 billion, or 12.7 percent, from FY2015.
"In FY2016 the State of Illinois has actually made just 93.2 percent of the General Fund expenditures on current services which were authorized for the year, leaving 6.8 percent-or $1.468 billion-unused," said Bobby Otter, CTBA's Budget Director. "Not only does this add to the lack of transparency in the Budget, but of even greater concern, it is not clear exactly who made the decisions to spend less than was authorized by court order and/or consent decree, what legal authority permitted the decision to spend less than authorized, or why the decisions to spend less on certain services rather than other services were made."
Finally, despite the cuts in spending on essential core services, the state's fiscal condition continued to weaken. CTBA's analysis found that by the end of FY2016, the accumulated General Fund deficit had reached $9.41 billion, an increase of $3.44 billion from the final FY2015 deficit of $5.97 billion-jumping by over 57 percent.
The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, established in 2000, is a bi-partisan 501(c)(3) research and advocacy think tank that promotes fair, efficient and progressive tax, spending and economic policies.
We hope this report is helpful and informative.
Ralph Martire and Bobby Otter
October 27, 2016