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Rauner says Illinois revenue estimate is a starting point

Illinois Watchdog.Org

Tuesday, April 17, 2018  |  Article  |  By Greg Bishop

Budget--State (8) , Governor (44) , Revenue Wheeler, Keith--State House, 50
With state legislative leaders signaling they’ll come up with an official estimate of how much tax revenue they expect to bring in for the coming fiscal year, there’s a question of how reliable that figure has been in the past.

The state constitution says expenditures should not exceed expected revenues for the year. State statute requires a revenue estimate resolution to be passed in the House and Senate.

The revenue estimate resolution is typically derived from estimates out of the nonpartisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) and the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget (GOMB).

A state lawmaker who’s been pushing for an official revenue estimate, something the General Assembly hasn’t passed in several years, says it’s the responsible thing to do for taxpayers.

Last week, two of state Rep. Keith Wheeler’s bills, one requiring a revenue estimate be passed before April 30 (House Bill 4501) and another requiring a revenue estimate before any money goes out (House Bill 4500), were tabled. He said it’s a sign of an unwillingness to be accountable to taxpayers.

“Should we do things in a better order? Yes we should,” Wheeler, R-Oswego, said, “We should protect taxpayers, we should protect ourselves from going further into debt. That’s the goal of these bills.”

But is the revenue estimate reliable?

A recent report from the nonpartisan Illinois Policy Institute shows several years in the past decade the numbers have been off by hundreds of millions of dollars. In 2013, Gov. Pat Quinn’s GOMB estimate was off by $2 billion while COGFA’s was off nearly $350 million, according to the report.

Gov. Bruce Rauner said last week it’s a fair question to ask if such an estimate is reliable, but it’s a starting point.

“It’s like the Congressional Budget Office, they’re job is to do something that’s official and not political, at least hopefully,” Rauner said. “The Congressional Budget Office is not famous for having projected things 100 percent accurately, and I’d say COGFA is not either, but we have to start somewhere.”

Wheeler agreed.

“If you don’t start with something you can’t go anywhere,” Wheeler said. “Otherwise right now we’re just basing ourselves on wishes rather than revenues and that’s really a problem.”

Lawmakers return to Springfield on Tuesday with less than seven weeks to pass a balanced budget.