House Republicans to Pritzker: Base budget on reality — ‘not wishful thinking’

By Peter Hancock — Capitol News Illinois 

SPRINGFIELD — State House Republican leaders on Monday called on Gov. J.B. Pritzker to propose a truly balanced budget when he unveils his spending blueprint Wednesday, arguing the Democratic governor should not count on money that may never materialize.

That’s what happened in May when lawmakers adopted the current fiscal year’s budget. That plan called for $42.9 billion in General Revenue Fund spending, but it was based on the assumption that Congress would pass an aid package for state and local governments and that Illinois voters would approve Pritzker’s proposed constitutional amendment to allow for a graduated income tax.

The graduated tax amendment failed in the November election, and Congress so far has not passed a stimulus package that includes aid to state and local governments, although the new Biden administration has proposed one.

“The Illinois Constitution cannot be more clear about the responsibilities of the executive branch,” House Minority Leader Jim Durkin said during a virtual news conference Monday. “Article 8, Section 2 and 2(b) say that the governor presents a budget that must balance spending with estimated revenue available for that fiscal year. Estimated revenue, not wishful thinking.”

In response to the drop in revenue caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the failure of the proposed graduated income tax, Pritzker announced in mid-December he was ordering more than $700 million in spending reductions along with plans to borrow $2 billion through the Federal Reserve’s Municipal Liquidity Facility. Those were two steps aimed at tackling a budget deficit that could still exceed $1 billion for the current fiscal year.

According to the latest monthly report by the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, base revenues flowing into the state have actually been running about 6.2% above estimates as individual income tax and sales tax receipts have come in better than expected.

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