Illinoisans could finally see fiscal discipline from state
lawmakers should a new spending cap proposal make its way to voters.
State Sen. Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park, and state Rep. Allen Skillicorn, R-East
Dundee, have both filed constitutional amendments tying growth in state spending
to growth in the stateís economy: SJRCA 21 and HJRCA 38.
If either proposal passes by a three-fifths majority vote in both the House and
Senate by May 6, voters at the ballot box in November will finally have a chance
to rein in lawmakerís out-of-control spending habits.
Why Illinois needs a spending cap
Illinoisí most recent budget, the one lawmakers passed over the governorís veto
in July 2017, is emblematic of how the state became such a fiscal basket case.
Despite a $5 billion tax hike, itís already out of balance by more than $1
billion. And that deficit is projected to exceed $2 billion next fiscal year
without spending reforms.
Much more daunting than the stateís massive budget deficit, however, is the
deficit in residentsí certainty about the future and their trust in the state.[to top of second column]
How can Illinois possibly dig its way out all this debt? How much of the budget
can pensions really eat up? When will the next tax hikes come Ė and how high
will they be?
These have all become pressing questions because lawmakers have had free rein to
grow spending far beyond what residents can afford.
From 2005-2015, state spending per capita grew 25 percent faster than per capita
personal income in Illinois. Many communities saw an even greater disparity. In
Rock Island County, for example, state spending per capita grew 70 percent
faster than residentsí incomes over that time.
In a healthy economy, itís OK for government spending to grow. But when spending
growth outpaces economic growth, it forces policymakers to raise taxes or borrow
money. State lawmakers have been eager to do both. And that injects uncertainty
into the lives of Illinoisans.
Families and businesses canít plan for their
futures without some degree of certainty about the world theyíll
live in five, 10 or 20 years down the road. The state of the state
meddles with those plans.
When faced with too much uncertainty, people leave.
And potential newcomers take pause. Indeed, this is the biggest
budget problem of all Ė a shrinking population for four years
running, driven primarily by people leaving the state. The net
outmigration of people from Illinois to other states since 2010 is
equivalent to the population of the four largest cities outside
State lawmakers have proven unable to constrain
their fiscal recklessness absent a real requirement to do so. Thatís
lead to crippling uncertainty for too many families.
Putting Illinois on a path to prosperity
In its Budget Solutions 2019 recommendations, the Illinois Policy
Institute is putting forth a real restraint. Itís called a smart
spending cap: tie government growth to economic growth.
Thankfully, both Cullerton and Skillicornís proposals would tie
state spending growth to the average annual per capita growth in
Illinoisí gross domestic product, or GDP Ė in other words, growth in
the stateís economy.
Providing a basic level of certainty about the long-term growth of
state government, and thus avoiding future tax hikes, means Illinois
could once again become an attractive destination for families and
Without fiscal discipline, lawmakers will be forced to continuously
hike taxes to pay for years of budget mistakes. Thatís a recipe for
poor economic growth, meaning fewer job opportunities and slower
wage growth for working Illinoisans.
State lawmakers should take Cullerton and Skillicornís lead. The
spending cap provides certainty today for a more responsible state
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