New taxes fund $1.4 billion worth of waste in state budget and infrastructure plan

July 9, 2019

Research from the nonpartisan Illinois Policy Institute reveals tax hikes are funding unnecessary dog parks, pools & sports courts

CHICAGO (July 9, 2019) – Lawmakers sold Illinoisans on a total of 21 taxes and fees as “necessary” to rebuild crumbling roads and bridges and to balance the budget.

Instead, new research by the nonpartisan Illinois Policy Institute reveals taxpayers are on the hook for at least $1.4 billion worth of dog parks, swimming pools, snowmobile paths, playgrounds, pickleball courts and private theaters. This wasteful and pork spending are appropriated in both the state’s $40.6 billion operating budget and its $45 billion capital plan.

What’s considered waste or pork?


  • Waste expenditures serve no essential government purpose. These projects are nice to have, but are not fundamental and are egregious given Illinois’ fiscal mess.


  • Pork spending funds political handouts to connected lawmakers.

The state’s fiscal year 2020 operating budget includes nearly $138 million of waste and pork, such as:

  • $40.7 million for bike, snowmobile and walking paths and trails
  • $17.3 million for outdoor recreation programs
  • $7.6 million for pools, aquatic centers and marinas
  • $475,000 for five dog parks
  • Local community examples: $3 million for an aquatic center expansion in the Decatur Park District, $2 million for a racetrack in Madison County, $600,000 for park improvements in Alton, $450,000 for traffic lights in Arlington Heights and $650,000 for construction in Chicago parks.

The tab for at least $1.25 billion of pork in Illinois’ capital plan includes:

  • $580 million given as 42 appropriations to the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity for vague grants to be used at the group’s discretion
  • $98 million for “noise abatement” at the Chicago Belt Railway Yard in Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan’s district
  • $15 million for a field house in the Chicago Park District
  • $8 million for bike paths and trails, on top of what was spent in the operating budget
  • $5.2 million for construction, upgrades and improvements at 36 playgrounds
  • Using taxpayer money to provide grants to private places of instruction, including $14 million to Rush University Medial Center, a private health system, and $5 million to Northwestern University to purchase science equipment

Adam Schuster, director of budget and tax research for the nonpartisan Illinois Policy Institute, offered the following statement:

“Taxpayers received little consideration from state lawmakers who took their hard–earned money and then misled them as to how their money would be used. These examples easily show why Illinois’ current project selection system so poorly serves its residents.

“Giving lawmakers special pots of money to spend at their own discretion violates best practices and best opportunities for return on investment. Instead of continuing to overspend on favors and waste, Illinois should look to solutions such as data-driven project selection that prioritizes fixing what we have over new construction, as well as relief from costly state construction mandates.”

To read the full report, “Doubling Illinois’ gas tax, other tax hikes will go to fund more than $1.4 billion of waste and pork,” visit