Stateline did a five-part series on the financial outlook for some of the biggest states in the Union. I took on Illinois and, not surprisingly, the picture is bleak.
SPRINGFIELD, Illinois — The Illinois General Assembly has given itself five years to fix the state’s dismal fiscal situation. It will be a painful five years.
The countdown is timed to new personal and corporate income taxes approved by lawmakers this January. Most of them will expire in January 2016. Before the extra revenue sources go away, the state somehow needs to get itself back on a permanently stable financial footing. The 2011 tax increases won’t do that by themselves.
In fact, they won’t come close. Even though they bring in more money than the entire state budget of Iowa, legislative forecasters say the only way the tax hikes would lift Illinois out of the fiscal hole it has spent years digging for itself would be if lawmakers kept spending flat through 2014. That’s unlikely, given growing bills for pensions and health care. And right now, at least, it is hard to imagine any more tax increases during the five-year period. So massive program cuts are certain to come, on top of cuts that already have been made.