Illinois ranks among bottom states in fiscal health

Illinois ranks among bottom states in fiscal health

A new study highlights the gravity of Illinois' fiscal crisis.

Illinois sits just next to the bottom on the country’s fiscal health scale, according to a new study.

Findings produced by a Pew Charitable Trusts analysis see the already beleaguered state reclining at 49 of 50 – second to last in the nation – in terms of expenditures outpacing revenues between the years of 2002 and 2016.

Illinois’ revenue was 94.2 percent of expenses over that time period, according to the study.

Illinois remains one of just two states with an annual budget shortfall exceeding 5 percent. While this number might look small on paper, years of ongoing deficits at this rate have resulted in a mountain of debt.

The news won’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s observed the half-baked financial gimmicks offered by the General Assembly. The study reaffirms what many Illinoisans already know. The crisis plaguing the Land of Lincoln’s finances is not one characterized by a lack of revenue, but rather by a chronic unwillingness to rein in spending.

While many states have made strides to balance their books throughout the recovery that followed the financial crisis, stability has not been a shared goal. Illinois sticks out as one of the 15 states that ran deficits in fiscal year 2016. By no means a new development, Springfield has proceeded to allow deficits to mount for each of the 15 years accounted for in the Pew report – a fact that underlies the state’s deep-seated spending problem.

Politicians who champion tax hikes as a fiscal imperative for plugging the budget gap continue to do so at their own peril. Refusal to confront systemic dysfunction in the form of prudent policy reforms in favor of unparalleled tax hikes sends the very tax base on which they depend fleeing out of state.

Indeed, Illinoisans are already hampered by one of the most onerous tax burdens in the nation, and see less of their income after taxes than residents of every neighboring state.

If policymakers’ concern for the state’s alarming fiscal condition is on par with their rhetoric, serious spending reform – not counter-productive tax patch-ups – ought to be on the table.

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