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Legislators Introduce Long-term Budgetmaking Proposals

News… … from the Illinois House of Representatives

For Immediate Release:

May 29, 2015

State Rep. Ann Williams


State Rep. Kelly Burke


Legislators Introduce Long-term Budgetmaking Proposals

Roadmap to Fiscal Stability outlined by Rep Burke and Rep Williams

SPRINGFIELD, IL -- As partisan political games continue in Springfield and a final budget deal remains elusive, Illinois State Reps. Kelly Burke (D-Evergreen Park) and Ann Williams (D-Chicago) are pushing a series of forward-looking proposals to fix the budgetmaking process, ensure the State’s long-term financial needs are addressed, and put the State on a path to fiscal stability.

Today, Burke and Williams introduced two resolutions urging common sense reforms to the budgetmaking process. The goal of these reforms is to avoid many of the fiscal pitfalls that have hampered efforts at creating fiscal stability.

“We can’t keep doing what we’re doing,” said Williams. “We’ve had hours of debate about what programs and services are and are not ‘essential,” but we’ve heard very little about how to fix the broken budgetmaking process and implement responsible budgeting practices long-term. It’s time to have that discussion.”

Burke noted that taxpayers have lost faith in the ability of State government to manage their money responsibly. “We are operating in a continual crisis mode,” said Burke. “It is time that we create a path forward; we need to restore the faith of our citizens that we can be good stewards of their money.”

The Roadmap to Fiscal Stability, as outlined in HRs 553 and 554, includes four specific recommendations for budgetmaking practices that are easily implemented, nonpartisan and not associated with any particular agenda. Burke and Williams hope that colleagues on both sides of the aisle will embrace this plan.

The Roadmap includes the following recommendations:

1. Standardize the budgetmaking process, starting with setting an annual revenue estimate and appropriating non-discretionary items such pension payments “off the top.”

The failure to provide for a consistent budgeting process has resulted in a continual cycle of crisis decision-making. By providing for a standard process each fiscal year, the State

can move away the short-term thinking and improve openness and accountability to taxpayers.

2. Limit the creation of new programs by requiring a cost-benefit analysis and a finding of savings or overriding public policy need before adoption.

When a family is in financial crisis, the last thing they would do is purchase a new car, for example. Just like any household, the State must ensure that any new expenditures are necessary or will result in cost savings in the long-run.

3. Prioritize paying down the backlog of unpaid bills.

Carrying a large load of unpaid debt results in uncertainty and instability for the units of local government, service providers and institutions that receive state funds; paying bills down will save taxpayers money by allowing these entities to better manage their finances, as well as providing significant cost savings in interest.

4. Strengthen the Budget Stabilization Fund to create an effective rainy day treasury.

Illinois created a rainy day fund in 2000, and set a goal of reaching a balance equal to 5.0% of General Revenues in 2004, but we have not even come close to reaching that goal. Both the Civic Federation and Center for Tax and Budget Accountability (CTBA) have called for the creation of a strong rainy day fund. The assets of a strong rainy day fund can cushion the blow during a fiscal crisis and avoid drastic, potentially harmful cuts to vital state programs and services.

“Just as many families realize that having a big credit card balance costs a fortune in the long run and they need to save a little every month for emergencies, government cannot run effectively and efficiently utilizing a shortsighted, reactionary approach,” said Burke. “We need to bring fiscal stability to our State, and these important steps will help to make that happen.”

“At this point, it’s unclear how the 2016 budget discussions will evolve,” Williams added. “But the turmoil and uncertainty this fiscal year only illustrates the need to implement these common sense budgetmaking practices moving forward.”