October 9, 2018

Illinois’ 2019 budget is as much as $1.5 billion out of balance, while report uncovers millions spent on irresponsible projects and special favors

CHICAGO (Oct. 9, 2018) – Gambling, golf and butterflies sit higher on state politicians’ priority list than solving Illinois’ ever-growing fiscal crisis and budget deficit. That’s according to a new Illinois Policy Institute report, which reviewed the state’s more than 1,200-page spending plan for 2019 to discover $54.2 million in wasteful spending and $27.1 million in politically motivated special projects.

The state of Illinois’ most recent spending plan is already as much as $1.5 billion out of balance. With four straight years of population decline, irresponsible spending that wastes taxpayer dollars and funds special projects in exchange for lawmaker votes is dangerous and irresponsible.

While eliminating all of this unnecessary spending wouldn’t balance the budget, lawmakers should cut this low-hanging fruit as a small step toward improving the state’s finances and giving taxpayers more confidence in their government.

“Any amount of waste in government budgets is unacceptable, especially at a time when family budgets are being squeezed by growing property tax costs. Public officials owe it to these taxpayers to be good stewards of public funds,” said Adam Schuster, director of budget and tax research at the Illinois Policy Institute. “Unfortunately, the $81 million of wasteful spending in this most recent state budget is a slap in taxpayers’ faces.”

Wasteful spending in the state budget includes:

  • $23.6 million on programs to promote and encourage bike riding in Illinois
  • $13.1 million to the Illinois Arts Council chaired by the wife of Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, which has been subject to criticism for misusing taxpayer funds
  • $3.6 million on the development of the Sparta World Shooting Complex, plus another $2.6 million for operating costs
  • $100,000 to build a National Railroad Hall of Fame in Galesburg, Illinois
  • $75,000 to the Illinois Professional Golfers Association to be spent on encouraging young people to take up golf
  • $63,000 to a student newspaper at Southern Illinois University, the only school newspaper funded by the state
  • $25,000 on monarch butterflies, a pet project of state Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake

Pork project spending in the state budget:

  • More than $17 million in pork spending directed to Chicago politicians, including:
    • $10 million to rehabilitate the dilapidated and privately owned Uptown Theatre in Chicago, which hasn’t seen a live concert since 1981. This state taxpayer money is part of a $75 million grant backed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
    • More than $1.3 million for improvements to Senka Park in Chicago, supported by state Reps. Elizabeth Hernandez, D-Chicago, and Martin Sandoval, D-Chicago.
  • $2.5 million for the renovation of a greenhouse at Southern Illinois University
  • $2 million for a race track in Madison County, putting taxpayers on the hook for gambling
  • $7.9 million combined from 48 other pork projects for swimming pools, bike paths, running tracks and water parks

In order to stop treating taxpayers like a piggy bank, the Illinois Policy Institute offers solutions such as improving financial transparency and enacting a spending cap for a budget Illinoisans can actually afford.

The full report, “Waste Watch: Nearly $100 million of waste in Illinois state and local government,” is available online here: http://illin.is/wastewatch