Illinois lawmakers still shopping without price tags
In March, the Illinois Policy Institute released a report on the lack of fiscal notes – or legislative “price tags” – on legislative bills that passed the 97th General Assembly. Fiscal notes estimate the costs, savings and revenue gain or loss resulting from the implementation of proposed legislation. Crafted properly, fiscal notes can provide a wealth of...
In March, the Illinois Policy Institute released a report on the lack of fiscal notes – or legislative “price tags” – on legislative bills that passed the 97th General Assembly.
Fiscal notes estimate the costs, savings and revenue gain or loss resulting from the implementation of proposed legislation. Crafted properly, fiscal notes can provide a wealth of information elected officials need to make fully informed votes.
In 2011, Illinois’ elected officials passed 650 bills, of which only 10, or 1.5 percent, contained fiscal notes.
In 2012, 494 bills became law, of which only 16, or 3.2 percent included fiscal notes.
The week this report was published, we distributed it to every state lawmaker in Illinois. We hoped that shedding light on this important issue would inspire a change in behavior for the 98th General Assembly.
Yet of the 595 bills that passed both houses this session in 2013, only 20, or 3.4 percent received fiscal notes.
In fact, one bill received two requests for a fiscal note – but strangely, both requests were withdrawn before the notes were provided.
As a part of the Institute’s 2013 Legislative Agenda, the government affairs team advocated on behalf ofstate Sen. Pamela Althoff’s proposal to create the Medicaid Budget and Impact Note Act, which requires a Medicaid Budget and Impact Note to be prepared by the Director of Healthcare and Family Services for bills that: amend the Illinois Public Aid Code, affect eligibility for or enrollment in Medicaid, or have a financial impact on the operation of the Department of Healthcare and Family Services. Unfortunately, this bill did not see movement, but our team intends to push it next year.
Additionally, the Illinois Policy Institute supported state Rep. Jeanne Ives’ attempt to require a copy of each pension impact note and state debt impact note (which are currently created by a nonpartisan governmental entity on all pension and revenue legislation) to be posted to the General Assembly’s website as soon as is practicable.
On the importance of fiscal notes, Althoff said, “These are extremely difficult fiscal times for the state of Illinois, and we need every tool at our disposal to roll back the cost of government. By enhancing fiscal notes, we help lawmakers, the media and the public get a better idea of just how costly a program will be to the state in the short and long term.”
The bottom line is that taxpayers deserve a professional, comprehensive and transparent system for estimating the cost of the new laws that will govern their lives. The current system of practically no price-tag information has served us poorly, as evidenced by a sprawling state government that is billions of dollars in the red. Fiscal note reform legislation deserves a closer look. Lawmakers simply cannot continue approving new laws without fully understanding their fiscal and budgetary impact.