Truth in Accounting: Pritzker budget 'at least $4.9 billion out of balance'
Truth in Accounting founder Sheila Weinberg views the new $40 billion state spending plan that Gov. J.B. Pritzker has touted as a “real balanced budget” in the same light as all the previous budgets that have long kept Illinois in the red.
“Taxpayers are only getting more obfuscations and dishonesty,” Weinberg wrote in an op-ed soon after lawmakers put the finishing touches on the plan and the new governor eagerly signed off on it. “For decades, Illinois governors and legislatures have claimed balanced budgets while the state has accrued billions in bills. Despite rhetoric to the contrary, Gov. Pritzker and the current legislators are continuing the very same budget games that have gotten us into this calamity.”
Weinberg sees the state’s treatment of its $134 billion in unfunded pension liability as one of the greatest deceptions of all.
“Springfield lawmakers are claiming that the budget 'fully' funds the pension payments,” she wrote in the Chicago Tribune. “To explain how misleading this, is let’s discuss this at a personal level. A couple who is in debt could decide to ignore the minimum payments that their credit card companies tell them they should pay, and foolishly set up a schedule to pay smaller amounts now and then and ramp up the payments in the future. Such a plan would result in their credit card debt continuing to increase dramatically.”
Weinberg argues that in 2019, not even bulked up payments will be enough to satisfy the minimum-level payments that actuaries have stamped as being fiscally responsible with regard to Illinois' pension crisis.
“Therefore, the current budget is at least $4.9 billion out of balance, despite speculative media reports of a $150 million surplus,” Weinberg deduced.
Alas, by Weinberg’s estimates, it all has left the state in a familiar, unenviable place.
“Pay no heed to Gov. Pritzker’s latest budget victory lap or the ‘new era of fiscal stability,’” she added. “Illinois’ alarming budget gap speaks for itself.”