budget

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

As Gov. Pat Quinn readies the FY 2013 state budget he is to unveil in a few weeks, the conventional wisdom seems to be that Illinois is in really bad shape, a financial basket case about ready to go belly up.

The lamentations are led by the usual suspects, Republicans trying to gain partisan advantage for this year's elections and hyperventilating editorial writers who need to stop, take a deep breath and get a grip on reality.

Jamey Dunn headshot
mattpenning.com 2014 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

A new legislative session and Gov. Pat Quinn’s first term as the elected governor of Illinois begin this month. While the legislature passed some historic measures during its veto session, little was done to address the state’s gaping budget deficit and crushing backlog of unpaid bills.

Both the lawmakers and the governor need to make some resolutions for the New Year, stick to them and put some solutions in place. 

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Does the Illinois Constitution mandate that the state budget be balanced each year?

One’s initial inclination is to respond, “Yes, of course, it says so in the Finance Article.” But a quick check of the actual record in the four decades since the charter was ratified suggests the answer is a bit less straightforward.

The question gained new interest a few weeks ago after House Speaker Michael Madigan acknowledged to reporters that the spending plan newly minted by legislative Democrats was not balanced.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The fiscal fiasco otherwise known as state budget-making has a lot of Illinoisans searching for descriptive terms harsh enough to fully express their disdain for state legislators.

Lawmakers left Springfield a few weeks ago without accomplishing the only chore they really needed to do before their self-imposed May 7 adjournment deadline — fashion a spending plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Can Illinois finish in the money in Round II of Race to the Top?

The answer could hinge on budget decisions that state lawmakers will make in coming days.

At stake is as much as $400 million to underwrite efforts to improve Illinois schools under Race to the Top, the education centerpiece of the Obama administration.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois faces its worst fiscal crisis in eight decades, a daunting challenge for the state’s purported leaders. So how have they responded?

In a word, abysmally. Indeed, the leadership deficit almost rivals the state’s dollar shortfall. Consider:

In his budget memo last month — at 21 minutes, too short and devoid of specifics to merit being called an address — Gov. Pat Quinn essentially punted.

WUIS/Illinois Issues

“Same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was.” – Talking Heads, Once in a Lifetime.

When Illinois lawmakers return to the Capitol to embark on their 2010 spring session, they’ll find new laptop computers. It is perhaps the only truly new item competing for their attention in the coming months.

Their legislative agenda is a burgeoning plate of political leftovers chock full of issues put off and punted in recent years, each snowballing the consequences for taxpayers and those who rely on state services or funding.

Kurt Erickson
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Thomson, a maximum-security prison in northwestern Illinois, has sat virtually empty since it was completed in 2001. The federal government announced plans to buy it in mid-December.

On the day before Veterans Day, Gov. Pat Quinn held an event in Chicago to announce the site for a new state-run nursing home for veterans.

The facility, to be paid for by the long-awaited capital construction program that lawmakers approved last summer, would be the state’s fifth veterans’ home and the first in the Chicago area.

Pharmacist David Mikus of the Medicine Shoppe in Springfield
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Todd Evers is in constant conversation with his bank, most recently in August, to prepare for the “inevitable what if.” What if the state stops paying?

He has had to borrow money twice a year for the past decade to keep open his group of pharmacies in Collinsville and the St. Louis area as he waits for a check from the Illinois comptroller that will pay him for services he provided to public aid customers months ago. 

Dana Heupel
WUIS/Illinois Issues

It’s said that misery loves company. If that’s true, Illinois has plenty of both.

The misery stems from money and programs that lawmakers and Gov. Pat Quinn have extracted from the state budget to try to fight the decay in state revenues caused by the economic recession. The company comes from other states that face the same massive financial problems.

Bethany Jaeger
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Centers for people with disabilities and many other community-based services have known for months that they were unlikely to receive as much state funding as they have in previous years.

But even a 10 percent to 20 percent reduction in funding can significantly alter their clients’ daily lives.

Dana Heupel
WUIS/Illinois Issues

When the smoke finally cleared in mid-July after the battle to produce a state budget, it was immediately obvious that the ashes were still smoldering and ready to reignite at any moment.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

As the legislative session gets under way each January amid a blizzard of bill introductions, Statehouse watchers have modest expectations: All lawmakers really have to do is pass a budget.

Bethany Jaeger
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Democrats and Republicans fully expected to make tough choices this year. As they react to the 17th month of a national recession and a $12.4 billion deficit projected for next year, Illinois lawmakers are on the hot seat now.

Gov. Pat Quinn proposed his own plan that would trim spending and generate new revenues. Some of his money-making ideas are expected to create tough votes for lawmakers before May 31, the day they’re supposed to adjourn the spring legislative session. 

Bethany Jaeger
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Just as Illinois citizens want to know when federal stimulus money will trickle down to help them pay their mortgages or open the door to jobs, state officials want to know when the money will help them avoid drastic cuts to services or painful increases in state taxes.

Bethany Jaeger
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Gov. Pat Quinn and state legislators will have to be held accountable on spending this year. They can’t afford not to be.

Without help from a federal stimulus package, the state could face up to a $9 billion deficit. Declining revenues merge with overdue bills for an ominous picture. And that’s before the nation’s economic crisis is fully taken into account.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

In recent weeks, the Gov. Rod Blagojevich sideshow has attracted an international audience, with its latest twists and turns now regular fare on the BBC’s world news broadcasts.

While becoming an international laughingstock is certainly embarrassing, the unwanted attention also has created an unwelcome distraction from the grave problems facing the state and its citizens.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

A few weeks ago, Congress and the George W. Bush administration cobbled together a $700 billion rescue plan for Wall Street, in hopes of avoiding economic catastrophe for Main Street.

Too bad the plan’s architects didn’t worry about Capitol Avenue and Statehouse Square as well, as state governments from California to Rhode Island struggle with sagging revenue growth that is jeopardizing their ability to provide needed services.

Noted Stateline.org, a nonprofit, nonpartisan online news site last month:

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

 

As Illinois lawmakers return from spring break for what everyone fervently hopes will be the last two months of the legislative session, one grim fact overshadows all others: The state is flat-out broke. No, even worse, it’s plunged deep in debt, the result of years of living beyond its means.

Consider a smattering of news items that appeared before the General Assembly left Springfield in mid-March:

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

As the seemingly interminable spring legislative session drags on through the dog days of summer and lawmakers begin circulating petitions for re-election, Democratic lawmakers can't be enthusiastic about the record compiled by their leaders.

Despite controlling all the levers of the lawmaking machinery — the governorship and majorities in both the Senate and the House — the dysfunctional Ds set new standards for governing incompetence.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

"Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood... ."

Daniel H. Burnham

In his State of the State/budget address last month, Gov. Rod Blagojevich quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and cited Hercules' struggle to kill the many-headed Hydra.

But the $60 billion spending plan he presented also seemed to embody the advice of the famed Chicago architect, for it was truly super-sized. Blagojevich called for:

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

So it begins. Illinois lawmakers have returned to Springfield and are getting under way on what could become the most significant spring session in recent memory — and most likely the longest-running since 2004, when an overtime session threatened lawmakers' July 4th festivities. 

That year, the state budget was a shambles. Officials were sitting on overdue bills, delaying obligations to public pension systems and ignoring needed repairs on roads and schools. Lawmakers took a swing at providing adequate per pupil funding but dropped the ball on inequities in school spending.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

"This spending plan reflects our values. This spending plan responds to working families ... [and the] unfortunate in our state." 

Sen. Jeffrey M. Schoenberg, an Evanston Democrat.

 "This is a fiscal fiasco that is staring the taxpayers in the face. What we have is a champagne and caviar budget when we can't afford it." 

Rep. Dave Winters, a Shirland Republican.

"We found just the right level of funding to make this budget work." 

Rep. Gary Hannig, a Litchfield Democrat.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

A couple of weeks ago, Gov. Rod Blagojevich formally announced what most folks thought has been pretty apparent since the day he took office — he is seeking another term as the state's chief executive.

The governor's statewide flyaround followed by a few days his budget address to a joint session of the Illinois legislature, in which he unveiled a $55.3 billion spending plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Fasten those seat belts. The spring legislative session is on a fast track. This being an election year, no one wants to run into unexpected controversies. This being Illinois, the ride could get bumpy.

Lawmakers are scheduled to adjourn April 7, nearly two months before the state's constitutional deadline. But in these next few weeks, they'll have a lot of ground to cover. 

The classroom, the polling place and now the DMV. Uncle Sam keeps showing up in the most peculiar places.

These unwelcome intrusions onto state turf come under the banner of federalism, the notion that a national policy will reap results across all states.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

As Democratic leaders prepared to ram a $54-plus billion budget through the Illinois legislature on May 31 — thus avoiding another overtime session — Gov. Rod Blagojevich was ebullient. "I feel real good about the session," he told reporters following cameo appearances in the Senate and the House. "My only regret is that it has to end now."

Pat Guinane
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Two contradictory pledges, more than anything else, have come to define Rod Blagojevich's tenure as governor. Since the campaign trail, the Chicago Democrat has promised he wouldn't hike income or sales taxes to erase the state deficit. And he wouldn't balance the budget by slashing spending on education, health care or public safety.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

In his 1817 autobiography, British poet Samuel Coleridge wrote of a "willing suspension of disbelief" that enables a reader to become caught up in a work of fiction.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich must have been hoping for a similar state of mind among legislators and other Illinois citizens last month when he presented his proposed budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Don’t expect the glitz of a rock concert or the fervor of a tent revival, but the Illinois House’s Budget 2006 road show could be a top draw in coming weeks.

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