Chesney: Budget Doubles Down on Failures

Illinois Democrats passed a new state budget on April 9 full of election-year gimmicks and self-congratulations. With the federal spigot set to stop flowing, Illinois has to get serious about getting our budget right. Democrats’ priorities are out of whack. The so-called ‘higher than expected state revenues’ exist because of inflation, not because of real economic growth. It isn’t surprising when the state gets more sales tax dollars when the price of gas, groceries and consumer goods goes up. But within a year, all of that will be lost to the cost of big government bureaucracy the state continues to feed.


If you want proof that throwing more money at a problem isn’t going to guarantee better government, the Pritzker Administration is Exhibit A. In 2019, the General Assembly voted for the most expensive capital program in decades. Who thinks the Pritzker Administration and IDOT has done wonders with our road-building dollars? IDOT’s continued delays, in fact, mean that with the cost of inflation we’re going to get fewer road projects completed for the funds originally allocated.


Similarly, the General Assembly approved increased funding for the veterans’ affairs department shortly after JB Pritzker took office. In return, we got an Inspector General’s report showing dysfunction, mismanagement, and 39 of our state’s heroes dead at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home under Pritzker’s watch, forcing his handpicked agency director, a longtime Mike Madigan ally, to resign in disgrace.


The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has an annual budget that exceeds one billion dollars. At the outset of his administration, JB Pritzker spent a lot of money on expert consultants to show how he was going to run the agency better. Did he implement reforms? Did he achieve better outcomes? No. DCFS received a budget increase again last year, and what we got in return was an unprecedented eight contempt of court orders against the agency’s director, Pritzker appointee Marc Smith, for failing to place children properly. Since December, five more children have died while under DCFS protection, if you can call it that. This is a tragic and unacceptable failure that falls squarely on Governor Pritzker.


The Democrats’ new FY23 state budget creates a host of new expensive programs that they can’t pay for beyond the short-term. As with many things when it comes to Governor Pritzker, the people of Illinois have to read the fine print. The Governor has touted Illinois’ bond rating increase, but that just means we’ve got from one notch above junk status to two. The Governor will brag about a temporary freeze in the gas tax increase, amounting to a paltry 2.2 cents per gallon savings, but all he is doing is delaying collecting the full amount until conveniently right after the November election.


We could have used our one-time bonus of federal government dollars to straighten out Illinois’ budget. Democrats chose instead to use a large portion of it to fund pet projects in their own districts. At the very least, Democrats should have paid off the remaining $1.8 billion deficit in the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund, which would prevent the need to raise taxes on businesses and reduce benefits for the unemployed, which is exactly what they have done with this budget.


I voted No on the budget because I am not willing to set the stage for JB Pritzker’s demands that taxpayers bail him out again when the one-time influx of federal aid doled out to states dries up. This year’s budget was a wasted opportunity for Illinois residents who deserve so much better. When he replaced the disgraced, now-indicted Mike Madigan last year, new House Speaker Chris Welch promised a “new day”. What we received instead is the same old Madigan playbook.


Source: IHR