Pritzker ad fact check: No, the governor has never balanced a state budget
In one of his first re-election political TV ads, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker takes credit for passing a balanced budget. Budget documents tell a different story, showing a deficit instead of the reported surplus.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker has touted his recent budget proposal as balanced, citing a $1.7 billion surplus. There are no documents supporting that number. When you consider carried deficits from the previous year, budget documents show a $1.5 billion deficit at the end of fiscal year 2023.
The state has not passed a balanced budget since 2001, and that includes each year of Pritzker’s tenure as governor.
Illinois’ budget was propped up using $14 billion in federal aid, not by Pritzker’s fiscal policy. Prior to a federal bailout, Pritzker added more than $5.24 billion in new or higher taxes and fees since taking office.
As far as paying bills, Illinois Comptroller Susan Mendoza is requesting the Treasury waive interest on a loan the state failed to pay back on schedule.
In terms of jobs, Illinois has recovered only 69% of its pre-pandemic jobs, the lowest percentage of any Midwest state and the eighth lowest nationally. The result is more residents packing up and starting over in a new state. 2021 was the eighth consecutive year of population decline in Illinois, the second longest streak in the nation behind West Virginia. Population loss was an issue before 2020, but the pandemic only exacerbated Illinois’ outmigration. Population loss costs Illinois’ economy over $31 billion.
The Illinois Policy Institute’s five-year fiscal plan – Illinois Forward 2023 – offers a path to balancing the budget in the long run with no further tax hikes. Unlike Pritzker’s so-called “surplus,” the math actually adds up.