Lawmakers stand for spending cap in Springfield

Lawmakers stand for spending cap in Springfield

A constitutional amendment to impose fiscal discipline on state lawmakers is gaining bipartisan support.

Advocates for commonsense budgeting in Springfield are getting louder – from both sides of the aisle.

On April 26, state Sens. Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park, and Michael Connelly, R-Naperville, held a joint press conference on a proposed amendment to the Illinois Constitution that would limit growth in state spending to the growth rate of the state’s economy. This amendment enjoys sponsorship from three Democrats and nine Republicans in the Senate.

The amendment would limit spending growth to the average annual growth rate of Illinois’ per capita GDP over the previous 10 years, which stands at roughly 2.4 percent currently.

Illinois needs a cap on spending in the state constitution because state lawmakers have shown time and time again that they do not have the restraint to spend within their means. State spending grew 25 percent faster than Illinoisans’ personal incomes between 2005 and 2015. And when spending grows faster than residents’ ability to pay for it, that means tax hikes and debt are around the corner, as Illinoisans have seen repeatedly.

Despite a constitutional amendment requiring it, Illinois has not seen a balanced budget since at least 2001.

While overspending is one driver of unbalanced budgets, another is the process by which the state estimates revenues. The revenue estimates the state uses to make its budget are rarely on target. This is not because state agencies are bad at estimating revenue, but because by its very nature, revenue is difficult to estimate with the accuracy needed to avoid overestimating or underestimating by hundreds of millions of dollars.

A spending cap, however, would solve Illinois’ overspending problem and its revenue estimation problem by giving lawmakers a “magic number” on which to base their budget discussions, without having to rely on revenue projections.

In the Senate, state Sens. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon; Steven Landek, D-Bridgeview; Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, D-Plainfield; Dan McConchie, R-Lake Zurich; John Curran, R-Downers Grove; Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon; Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove; Chuck Weaver, R-Peoria; Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo; and Jil Tracy, R-Quincy, have joined Cullerton and Connolly in supporting the amendment.

State Rep. Allen Skillicorn, R-East Dundee, has sponsored the proposed amendment in the Illinois House.

Unfortunately, a large majority of state lawmakers have yet to show support for fiscal responsibility in Springfield. Illinoisans can contact their lawmaker to tell him or her to support a spending cap amendment here:

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Illinois needs a spending cap
Illinoisans need a state government they can afford.
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