budget

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

It’s tough being a governor these days. There’s no question about that.

Nationwide, states are facing their worst fiscal crises in more than 50 years. And some say Illinois is facing its worst ever. That’s a bit of political hyperbole, perhaps, but not far off the mark. Times are grim.

Going into his first state budget, Gov. Rod Blagojevich is staring down a $1.2 billion hole. His estimate. By the end of the budget year that begins this summer, he’ll have to fill another $3.6 billion hole. Again, his estimate.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

"I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.” Repeating that optimistic mantra, a bouffant-haired figure shovels coal into the firebox of a speeding locomotive bearing a “Hot Rod Express” nameplate.

Looming ahead, a gargantuan figure wearing a “Budget Deficit” T-shirt sprawls, bound, across the tracks. “Think again,” says the behemoth.

Mike Morsch
WUIS/Illinois Issues

I have the answer to Illinois' budget woes and it's quite simple, really. 

The state should win its own lottery. 

After all, according to the lottery's Web site (www.illinoislottery.com), ?You don't have to be good with numbers to play the lottery.?

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Facing perhaps the worst fiscal crisis in state history, Illinois lawmakers chose an equally unprecedented remedy — selling long-term bonds — to help fill a $1-billion-plus hole in the state’s day-to-day operating budget.

The Chicago school system will lose. City government in Decatur will feel the pinch. And the cash-strapped state of Illinois will be out hundreds of millions of dollars.The sudden, unexpected revival of a federal economic stimulus plan earlier this year dealt a major blow to Illinois state finances. Illinois schools, municipalities and other local governments will feel the bite, too. But the biggest loser will be the state’s general revenue fund.

Peggy Boyer Long
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Fish or cut bait. That phrase comes readily to mind every year at just about this time. 

With the scheduled end of the spring legislative session mere weeks away, lawmakers, and the governor, face some of the toughest fiscal choices in recent memory. State revenues are sinking, expenses rising. And the fall election is visible already on a not-so-distant shore. By the end of May, they’ll need to find some way to patch a $1.3 billion hole, maybe bigger, in Gov. George Ryan’s budget for the coming year. It won’t be easy.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Is there a statesman in the House? The Senate? The Executive Mansion? Anywhere in state government?

As the Illinois General Assembly moves into the final month of the spring session, it seems fitting to pose a question — albeit rhetorical — about the quality of leadership in Springfield.

It’s been a difficult year for Nora Watters and her family. The 38-year-old Decatur woman has managed to find work, but her job with the National Opinion Research Center only brings in an occasional paycheck. The family of four, which earned about $30,000 last year, has been on an especially tight budget since last fall when Watters’ husband lost his full-time job at a local car dealership. 

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

In proposing a $52.8 billion budget for the fiscal year starting July 1, Gov. George Ryan issued a warning to the Illinois General Assembly: Go beyond my bottom line, and I’ll veto the entire budget.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Christmas came early last month for some of Illinois’ public servants, with mixed results.

Two high-profile officials making career changes received handsome going away presents to help smooth their transitions. The beneficiaries of the holiday good will were outgoing state Schools Superintendent Glenn “Max” McGee and retiring state Rep. Andrea Moore, a Libertyville Republican. 

McGee was given a six-month, $125,000 consulting contract by the State Board of Education, the same folks who pushed him out the door last summer. 

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The terrorist attacks that toppled the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City some eight weeks ago also dealt a serious blow to the state's fiscal well-being. The economic fallout from the attacks, coming as the state already was feeling the impact of a slumping economy, led Gov. George Ryan and administration budget officials to take belt-tightening steps not seen since the fiscal crisis of a decade ago. 

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

As Illinois lawmakers start a long summer recess, the $53.4 billion budget they left behind for the fiscal year starting July 1 leads to an inescapable conclusion: Austerity, like beauty, must lie in the eye of the beholder.

After weeks of dire warnings about an extremely tight budget year, repeated calls for belt-tightening and trial balloons proposing no new or expanded programs and no new money for bricks-and-mortar, the final fiscal year 2002 budget stands some $3.4 billion higher than the request Gov. George Ryan made in February.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Is it, as Yogi Berra might put it, deja vu all over again for state finances in Illinois? Look at what's been happening lately. 

- State revenues, especially sales tax receipts, have been less than what lawmakers expected when they put the current budget together last April.

- Medicaid spending has been higher than anticipated, causing state officials to cut costs by reducing reimbursement rates to some providers.

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