Dabrowski: Magicians: How Illinois politicians made $1.2 billion in budget deficits disappear
If you want to understand Illinois’ corrupt budget making process, take the example of how the legislature just “cleaned up” some of its unaccounted-for budget deficits.
In the blink of an eye, Illinois politicians made $1.2 billion in accumulated deficit spending disappear. There was no debate needed over how to fund it. In fact, pols didn’t need to find any actual cash to pay for it at all.
Instead, they just shoved a solution into the “celebratory” 2019 budget they just passed. And they hoped nobody would notice.
A bit of set up first:
Last year the General Assembly passed a 32 percent tax hike – about $5 billion in new money. Politicians’ excuses for getting that tax hike and a budget passed were many – the threat of a junk bond rating, spiking unpaid bills, unfunded social services, etc.
Legislators got their budget and that $5 billion in new money when they overrode Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto. That 2018 budget contained near-record spending and no reforms. So unsurprisingly, Illinois pols ended up with yet more deficits, even with all those additional tax revenues.
That 2018 shortfall, plus unaccounted-for spending from the budget impasse years (and some from as far back as 2011), totaled about $1.2 billion.
That was $1.2 billion spent, but never paid for, and never accounted for.
To fix that problem, the state’s budgeteers snuck a “solution” into the 2019 budget agreement. They finally accounted for the $1.2 billion by shoving it into 2018 through what's known as a supplemental appropriation.
But here's the kicker: they never actually paid for that $1.2 billion. There was no need for lawmakers to actually find the cash. That’s because the spending had already been rolled into the state’s unpaid bill backlog.
So politicians disappeared the problem and created yet another illusory "balanced" budget.
And Illinoisans were hoodwinked once again.
Keep in mind that all this budget “balancing” isn’t real. Illinois runs up expenses, especially unfunded pension liabilities that are outside the budget, with no way to pay for them. Illinois’ finances get worse every year no matter the accounting games politicians play.
That’s a fact not even our magician politicians can make disappear.