By: Mark Glennon*

Illinois will have to cut its budget if the federal government doesn’t give it money. That’s basically what Governor JB Pritzker said Tuesday.

It’s pretty easy to imagine how many Illinoisans would respond: “So? Cut the budget. Isn’t there supposed to be shared sacrifice? We are getting hammered by pay cuts, furloughs and taxes.”

As the Chicago Sun-Times summarized Pritzker’s Tuesday comments, “[H]is cabinet directors have been advised to prepare for a ‘nightmare scenario’ that includes budget cuts of at least 5% for the current fiscal year and a 10% cut for the next one if Washington doesn’t help out.”

But it’s partly because Illinois has shown no willingness to cut even a dime that Washington has been unable to agree on a federal relief package for states. Lawmakers from well-run states, many of which can get by with no federal help at all, are very reluctant to shell out their constituent’s money for what they see as a bailout for states like Illinois.

Many of those other states “are slashing funding for everything from education and health care to orchestra subsidies,” as a recent New York Times article put it.

But Illinois has put no skin in the game. Its current budget provides for a spending increase of 7.5% over last year, even though the state’s population is shrinking. It anticipates revenue that will be about $5 billion – over 8% of the budget — short of what it will spend, hoping the federal government covers the difference.

Serious effort to get sympathy from Washington would require serious reforms. You’d think Pritzker would have at least made token cuts that he would have tried to pass off as big sacrifices.

Pritzker would do well to listen to the Problem Solvers Caucus. That’s a bipartisan, centrist group in Congress trying to tone down the political rhetoric on both sides and get a compromise federal relief bill passed.

“This back-and-forth, us-versus-them, tit-for-tat, it doesn’t help my community, it doesn’t help people in my district who need it.” said Rep. Kendra Horn, a caucus member and a Democrat. “We’ve got to get something across the finish line now.”

Instead, Pritzker added his usual partisan jabs to his Tuesday message: “Until Republicans in Washington decide otherwise, middle class, working class and poor families across our state and across the nation will likely suffer from cuts to public safety, education, human services and environmental safety — and the potential layoffs will make the economic recession worse,” Pritzker said.

That’s not helping.

Our view on federal aid remains what we wrote in RealClear Politics earlier this year. Any federal relief for states that haven’t managed their affairs properly should be conditioned on reforms.

*Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.

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Poor Taxpayer
2 months ago

Why should they cut spending?
Never have, never will.
Raise taxes always.
Sky is the limit when it comes to taxes.
If you do not like it you can move, it is the only answer.

DixonSyder
2 months ago
Reply to  Mark Glennon

Thank you, it’s about time.

NB-Chicago
2 months ago

One would have to be completely nieve to think all those $millions$ in union dues that have gone into lord madigans record $25 mil war chest ain’t buying zero layoffs to all are public sec heros..
Unfortunately most of the indentured peasantry is just that

Illinois Entrepreneur
2 months ago

We have “minor leaguers” for leaders. Saying one thing, but getting things done behind the scenes is a political art as old as the profession. These people just spout off whatever they think their base wants to hear, and they have no desire to compromise or get deals done on our behalf.

They are losers.

Riverbender
2 months ago

The people, by voting for or by not voting, are the losers.

NoHope4Illinois
2 months ago

Has anyone started to (gulp) miss Rauner? I am. At least Rauner pushed budget realities. Pritzker seems to have his head in a fantasy land, where partisan politics is the most important thing to work on. Oh, that sounds like Pelosi. There you have it.

anonymous
2 months ago

Why should they be special when so many others have lost their jobs?
Illinois is always like this–it was not just because of the coronavirus –it just made it more out in the open.

David F
2 months ago

10% cross the line in cuts AND 10% CUT IN PAY. (since we can’t fix pensions with a cut)
If they want those big pensions take that 10% of employee pay and put it in the pension fund!

Mark Felt
2 months ago

Pritzker budget cuts will come in the form of reduced sentences for convicted violent felons. If you don’t have to house them you can save money. Not much of a plan, but hey, this is Illinois.

Dr Common Apathy
2 months ago

Pritzker is correct. Any budget cuts for the Communist Party politburo members, central committees and apparatchik is a “nightmare scenario”. These privileged public employees must be protected at all costs with no reduction in their standard of living. The rest of us peasants don’t understand this is for our own good.

nixit
2 months ago

Many employers did away with their 401(k) match months ago. This is basically a few thousand dollar reduction in compensation without the “vacation” the traditional unpaid furlough offers. Add investment return to that and the cut can amount to well over $10,000 down the road.

You can’t do that with pensions. The state can’t say “no employer pension contribution this year” without owing that money down the road. So the only thing the state can do is layoffs. You wanted a pension? You got it.

David F
2 months ago
Reply to  nixit

If you can’t cut their pensions cut their pay for the pension fund.

nixit
2 months ago

Every state agency outside IDES should have already implemented some sort of employee furlough by now. There should be a rotation furloughed employees each and every week for the foreseeable future. Are they telling us the state couldn’t spare one employee for one week?

Tom Paine's Ghost
2 months ago
Reply to  Mark Glennon

This is appalling and disgusting. It shows how completely beholden Illinois Government is to Public Sector Unions. This will end. Eventually Illinois will run out of other people’s money.

David F
2 months ago
Reply to  nixit

Cut pay AND layoffs, put the cut pay into the pension fund.

Riverbender
2 months ago
Reply to  nixit

I have seen many apparent furloughs of State workers in my neighborhood or at least I think what it is being so many are sitting at home. However on the State’s program these people still get a paycheck and unless weeding gardens, taking bike rides, painting the house and other assorted details are state work they are not working their State jobs at home.

bagelgirl
2 months ago
Reply to  Riverbender

I am working my state job at home since last March.