Illinois is in a $6 billion financial hole thanks to overspending and the coronavirus pandemic. Governor J.B. Pritzker refuses to make the necessary cuts, hoping for a bailout from Washington and that his tax-raising scheme on the “wealthy” will pass by referendum on Election Day.
By law, the Illinois state budget is supposed to be balanced. But Pritzker, using smoke and mirrors as well as banking on revenue that doesn’t exist, has pared the budget hole down to about $6 billion — if his other iffy calculations come true as well.
The budget authorized borrowing roughly $4.5 billion through the Federal Reserve’s Municipal Liquidity Facility, something the Fed board approved earlier this year as a way to help state and large local governments make up for the loss of revenue they’ve seen.
In Illinois, the plan was to borrow that money and pay it back with aid that lawmakers expected Congress to approve.
Republicans in the General Assembly argued against that plan, saying it would be unwise to rely on short-term borrowing to balance the budget, especially when it was still unknown what, if any, kind of relief package Congress would authorize in the future.
Compared to other states — both Democratic and Republican — Pritzker has done nothing to stem the flow of red ink.
Back in May, Gov. Abbott (R-Texas) sent a letter to state agency heads asking them to trim 5% of their budgets. Gov. Evers (D-Wisconsin) called for the same cuts back in May and then announced more cost saving cuts in July.
Pritzker, the highest-ranking elected official in the state, could do something Gov. Holcomb (R-Indiana) was forced to cut 15% from each agency to offset the losses the state was facing. Gov. Whitmer (D-Michigan) was forced to lay off or furlough 31,000 state employees.
These aren’t easy circumstances. But that’s what leaders do, they make the tough decisions when crisis occurs.
Pritzker’s “tough decision” might be on choosing the decor for his vacation home that his family visited during the time the rest of the state was in total lockdown.
Gov. Pritzker has failed to lead. He signed a budget that is $6 billion out of balance, granted automatic pay raises totaling $261 million for state workers, finally eased restrictions after months of shutdowns on small businesses that he has quickly reimposed based on arbitrary positivity rates, and is responsible for the epic failure at IDES that has left unemployed Illinoisans waiting months for benefits and countless hours on hold or disconnected phone lines.
Those “epic failures” at the Illinois Department of Employment have cost the state tens of millions of dollars in fraudulent claims while the rest of the system was leaving thousands of unemployed out in the cold.
Pritzker’s fault? Not on your life.
While other governors acted preemptively, six months into the crisis, Gov. Pritzker continues digging the state into a deeper hole. His deflection of responsibility is an insult to all taxpayers.These problems long persisted before the COVID pandemic and instead of doing the hard work to reform the state’s reckless spending, Gov. Pritzker doubled down.
Now, because of his failed leadership, he needs taxpayers to bail him out and agree to change the constitution and support a massive tax hike amendment. And he is spending $51.5 million to make sure it happens.
Pritzker can get away with this budgetary tomfoolery because the state legislature is in his hip pocket. Not only is the legislature overwhelmingly Democratic, but his trusted ally, House Speaker Michael Madigan, cracks the whip whenever he needs something.
The only way to hold Pritzker accountable is to defeat him for re-election. But that won’t be until 2023, during which time he can do a lot more damage to the state with his draconian lockdowns and budget shenanigans.